Models of Success – In Rural Communities – Pikwakanagan First Nation, OntarioModels of Success – In Rural Communities – Pikwakanagan First Nation, Ontario

Overview

The Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation is a community of 450 resident members located off Highway 60 on the shores of the Bonnechere River and Golden Lake, a 90-minute drive west of Ottawa. The community was recently granted resources to support the building of an expansion to its Makwa Community Centre for the First Nations community. The Pikwakanagan First Nations wanted to improve upon previous experience with large construction projects in the community with respect to the hiring and retention of First Nation workers. Their experience motivated the First Nation to conduct business differently, promoting the hiring and training of local First Nation workers. The band designed and developed through the tendering process some essential specifications for the bids:

  • Two Band members must be employed from the beginning to the end of the project – this was to ensure employment stability and visibility on the project, and to create a buddy system on-site.
  • A bank of 900 hours was stipulated to be used for Pikwakanagan First Nation members only – this equalled approximately four positions for six months. (The contractor could replace workers or switch jobs as needed.)
  • Depending on who was hired, if workers required additional apprenticeship training, the Band would cover the costs and register workers accordingly.
  • Two companies must be part of the bid – Mundt’s (a Heating/Ventilation Company owned by the Band), and an Electrical firm that hired and apprenticed one of their Band members – this equalled up to three more jobs on this project.

The band predicts that there will be approximately nine to 10 First Nation workers hired on this project. This represents more than 10% of the total number of on-site workers. The band is encouraging contractors to consider their band workers for continued employment. This will be monitored in the future by the band. The band provided a list of up to 19 workers with and without tickets, with training and construction skills, who are available for work on the project for the contractor to interview and select from.

The band has indicated that construction and skilled workers from its community experience the following challenges because they are in a rural community:

  • Lack of consistent work in the area
  • Transportation to and from job sites (many workers do not have cars or driver’s licences)

The band has indicated that most contractors are not too concerned about tickets and are more interested in workers’ experience.

Partners

Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation

Architect involved in the design

Local contractors

The band will work with the project and contractor to provide band member support as required. Most contractors in the area are very aware of the cultural considerations and therefore do not require any further training for the workers. Contractors, during the mandatory site visit, are given an opportunity to ask questions and/or review the mandatory specification requirements with the band.

Why This Model Works

The Pikwakanagan First Nation is confident that the model will produce higher employment and training results for its band members due to the tendering process and monitoring of the project. The band has a number of semi-skilled and skilled workers to draw from for construction projects. The model will help inform and educate contractors in the area on the employability of workers from the band. This will add to their potential workers in the future. Education levels, in some cases, have prevented these workers from getting tickets; however, they have extensive residential and some commercial job experience.

Challenges to Work On

The following challenges exist:

  • Ensuring that workers have support on-site.
  • Maintaining a supply list of construction workers for the contractor to find replacements, if required, for the banked hours.
  • Monitoring and ensuring that the contractor maintains the highest possible level of employment of band workers.