Models of Success – In Urban Centres – Squamish Nation Trades Centre, North Vancouver, British ColumbiaModels of Success – In Urban Centres – Squamish Nation Trades Centre, North Vancouver, British Columbia


"The Squamish Nation has a young and growing population that will form a significant part of our future workforce. As part of our Nation’s strategy, we are encouraging more First Nations communities to support community-based apprenticeship and other training programs. Eventually we will have our own Training Institute within our own territories."—Chief Gibby Jacob, Chief Negotiator of the Project Negotiations Office


Since 2005, there has been a tremendous need for trades training and apprenticeships within Aboriginal communities. The Squamish Nation of British Columbia recognized this need and developed the Squamish Nation Trades Centre. This facility is located in North Vancouver and offers quality education and trades training to all Aboriginal people (Status, non-status, Métis and Inuit).

The primary purpose of the Trades Centre is to provide First Nations and Aboriginal people with the necessary skills that will empower them to pursue meaningful employment opportunities in their lives.

In order for the Trades Centre to fulfill its purpose, it had to provide industry-recognized certifications, such as Red Seal Certification. Red Seal Certification is recognized by the Industry Training Authority (ITA). Providing such industry-recognized certifications will subsequently generate indispensable partnerships with local First Nations, key stakeholders within the construction industry, unions, federal and provincial governments, and post-secondary institutions.

The Squamish Nation Trades Centre is the training affiliate of the Stitsma Employment Centre. The Stitsma Employment Centre offers training, employment assistance and cultural awareness, and also negotiates contracting opportunities such as the Sea to Sky Highway during the 2010 Olympic and Para-Olympic Games.

The Squamish Nation Trades Centre is funded by Human Resources Skills and Development Canada (HRSDC), Services Canada and the Vancouver Aboriginal Skills & Employment Partnership. Additional band source revenue funds are provided by the Squamish Nation.

Who is Involved

The following partnerships and strategic alliances are expressly with the Squamish Nation Stitsma Employment Centre and directly benefit the Squamish Nation Trades Centre:

  • Signed MOU with Lil’Wat and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
  • In association with the First Nations Employment Society Group. This includes; Musqueam, Tssawansen and six additional First Nations.
  • Affiliated with the Vancouver Aboriginal Skills & Employment Program (VanASEP), who are recognized industry job coaches.
  • Partnered with Kwantlen Polytechnic University for the certification and support of instructors and other support staff.
  • In cooperation with BC Provincial, (the Industry Training Authority for funding & Red Seal recognition and certifications).
  • Associated with various unions and construction employers as well as other post-secondary institutions.

The Focus

Carpentry Levels 1 & 2 in partnership with Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Students receive their first year toward their Red Seal. The Red Seal Certification is a four-level, four-year program. (Carpentry Level 1 is a six-week program.) After successful completion of 1,250 work hours and Carpentry Level 1, students can register for Carpentry Level 2. Carpentry Level 2 covers training in concrete, form work and rigging. Students can continue with Kwantlen or other recognized post-secondary institutions for Levels 3 & 4 and receive their Red Seal ticket upon completion.

Summer of 2008 & 2010:  “Youth in Trades” Program

Fifteen youth in 2008 and 14 youth in 2010 (high school students in Grades 11 and 12) entered into a Foundations program in which they received a number of certificates:

  • First Aid/WHMIS
  • Working in Confined Spaces
  • Traffic Control Ticket
  • Forklift training
  • Practical projects that was donated to the Squamish elders

Key to Summer Program

Each student receives four to eight credits upon completion of the program to use toward graduation and receiving their Dogwood Certificate.

Trades tutoring is offered for two hours every day to support students in their efforts to pass the skill-testing requirements and the academic portion of the program.

Other programs include Carpentry Levels 1 & 2 to get apprentices on the path to Red Seal certification. To date, the Trades Centre has serviced over 500 clients and still has approximately 190 registered apprentices. To promote and explain employment opportunities in the construction industry, the Trades Centre attends Career Trade Fairs and has Cultural Awareness Programs for employers. The Trades Centre also keeps abreast of economic downturns and plans to respond by retraining current workers in other skills to support employment re-entry in other construction areas.

Why This Model Works

The Trades Centre was designed and implemented with the support of First Nations leadership, Aboriginal organizations, construction industry leaders and post-secondary institutions. It has the capacity to keep individuals registered when completing a job to ensure the apprentice maintains his or her hours between job opportunities. The Trades Centre works with job coaches who identify and link the Centre with employment opportunities by visiting job sites, meeting with placement workers and clients, and responding to any issues that may arise during the employment.

The Trades Centre works with a number of partners and their resource tools to support their work, such as

  • Vancouver Aboriginal Skills & Employment Program’s partnership guide and booklet
  • Cross Cultural Training for Employers
  • Tutoring at the Trades Centre

The model works because the Trades Centre involves key partners, stakeholders and appropriate leaders, without having established a big advisory committee, to guide the process toward implementation.

Challenges to Work on

It is important to ensure that all of the construction industry partners are part of the support in place as programs are developed. Labour groups are also essential to the partnership by making sure apprentices have a complete understanding of the employment they are entering, and by supporting the understanding of the Trades Centre goals of working toward programs and training opportunities that are available to the apprentices.

Aboriginal clients continue to struggle with the minimum math requirements required for successful completion of trades training and often require math tutors to support passing the Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) assessment. As well, many individuals do not hold valid class 4, 5, or 7 driver’s licences, which are often required in the construction industry.