Models of Success – In Rural Locations – Grand River Employment and Training (GREAT) Six Nations, OntarioModels of Success – In Rural Locations – Grand River Employment and Training (GREAT) Six Nations, Ontario


The Grand River Employment and Training ASET holder is located on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario. This ASET holder has been operating and serving this community for 19 years. Six Nations has a working-age population (15 years and older) of 19,302, with 5,274 between the ages of 15 and 29 years old. This is the population that has access to GREAT’s services.

Who is Involved

The GREAT ASET holder has many partners, depending on which one of the wide range of services it offers – e.g. career development, training, apprenticeship, summer jobs, wage subsidies and support. The funding is federal and provincial in scope, with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) as the primary source.

GREAT offers an Apprenticeship Skills Training Program and Outreach with the following partners:

  • Canadian Union of Skilled Workers
  • Individual construction employers
  • Other labour groups
  • Six Nations Elected Council

The Focus

The Apprenticeship Skills Training Program is supported by a full-time Apprenticeship Coordinator who concentrates on outreach with employers, as well as supporting apprentices as they move through the indentured process. The objective is to enhance and ensure the successful completion of apprenticeship training according to the Ontario government’s requirements. In the first year, participants are eligible for job training subsidies of 60% of wages, and in the second year, 50% of wages. Additional support includes provision of $450 to successful apprentices to help pay for tools, transportation or other equipment needed to get into the industry. The program runs for up to two years, depending on the client’s needs.

Why This Model Works

GREAT has been very successful in developing programs with employers. Currently it is offering a pre-apprenticeship electrical program. Brandi Jonathan says, “We have a collaborative relationship with our employers, we know what they want and ensure that our screening meets their needs.” A successful relationship was built over time with the Canadian Union of Skilled Workers. “We developed a referral process with them as well as an understanding that they will post jobs with GREAT. Every individual was referred and interviewed, and 75% have been hired. This is because GREAT’s screening is very mindful of the kind of jobs and whether the candidate is a good fit. The Apprenticeship Coordinator comes from Six Nations, and feels that it is very helpful to know the community and the needs of the employers in making these screening calls.”

GREAT has also achieved an understanding with the union that if a potential candidate does not currently have the required level of math or English, but is working on it, they can still be interviewed for jobs. Then, if successful, they are placed on a pre-select list to be considered when they complete their academic qualifications. This creates real motivation for the potential candidate.

In addition to the screening process, the Apprenticeship Coordinator makes sure that a referral letter is attached to every referral made and has become part of the application. This is a vital step, since it identifies the applicant as being First Nation and the employer can flag the file if they want.

The following are important factors in considering successful program models:

  • Build a relationship with the employer, meet with them regularly, have them come to the community, and make sure there is a solid understanding of the job requirements and expectations of the job.
  • Have employers attend Career Fairs and encourage them to give regular information sessions in the community.
  • Do detailed screening to determine if the person is a good fit.  For example, if screening for power line technicians, find out if the person can or will travel, if they can tolerate heights, if they have been able to maintain a long-term job.  Make sure they understand the starting wages, training and the commitment that it involves to complete the apprenticeship.
  • Build programs with the employers to fit their needs.  If an employer just calls or visits only once, this will not go far in building a relationship.  There must be a continuous dialogue and information sharing.
  • Support the trainees on work sites and while in training.
  • When living in a rural area, trainees must understand they will likely need to travel to maintain full time employment.
  • Maintain the track record with the employer to build new relationships in the industry.

Challenges to work on

When operating from a rural location, local construction employers will often not have enough work to certify and get apprentices registered. This means that larger off-reserve construction firms must be approached.

Apprentices have difficulties entering the construction industry due to lack of math, and lack of transportation.

Apprenticeship programs would like to see a provincial list of construction employers who will hire and indenture Aboriginal people into the industry.

Employers should consider hiring an Aboriginal person to work with Aboriginal communities. Often this sets the tone and gets relationships off to a good start.

To increase the number of Aboriginal people getting into the construction industry, every ASET holder should have an Apprenticeship Coordinator who has a good understanding of the clients, who works closely with employers and who understands the apprenticeship process.