Partners celebrate graduates of the Georgian Bay Drinking Water Internship Program
Toronto, September 27, 2022 – Last week, Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nations (WBAFN), Gezhtoojig Employment & Training, Anishinabek Nation and Water First Education & Training Inc. celebrated the graduation of 14 interns from the Georgian Bay Drinking Water Internship Program. This program is a paid internship that recruits young Indigenous adults to the drinking water field, and helps them obtain entry-level certifications required to begin their careers in water treatment. Having qualified, local personnel also supports communities in having access to safe, clean drinking water for the long term.
During the 15-month internship program, each intern accumulated 1,800 hours of on-the-job experience in water treatment plants, which is a part of the water operator in training (OIT) certification process.
Interns also pursued additional water operator certification exams including water quality analyst and the entry-level course for drinking water operators, as well as environmental relevant training like GIS and water sampling which can lead to work in both drinking water treatment and the environmental water field. Following graduation, interns join the Water First Alumni Network to stay engaged, build local networks and access opportunities for ongoing professional development and peer support.
The Georgian Bay Drinking Water Internship Program began in June 2021. Water First has already implemented two successful internship programs to date: one in partnership with the Bimose Tribal Council and 11 affiliated First Nations, and the other, a pilot, in partnership with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, and the Anishinabek Nation, on Manitoulin Island. A fourth internship program in partnership with Mamaweswen, the North Shore Tribal Council, and seven participating communities began in the summer of 2022. To date, through Water First’s Drinking Water Internship Program, 45 interns from 31 First Nations communities have passed their Operator in Training exams and worked approximately 70,000 hours in their local water plants.
The water crisis facing Indigenous communities is profound. In Canada, 18% of First Nations communities are under a drinking water advisory; in Ontario, it’s 35%. Drinking water challenges are complex — in some communities, local concerns may be around infrastructure, while for others the main concern is source water contamination. Many communities have also identified the need for more young, qualified and local personnel to support solving water issues independently and for the longer term.
About the Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nations (WBAFN):
WBAFN’s mandate is to provide advisory and technical services, in conjunction with local leaders, officials, and technicians, to enhance the quality of life for the members of the communities they serve.
About Water First Education & Training Inc. (Water First):
Water First is a registered Canadian charity that works alongside Indigenous communities to address water challenges through education, training and meaningful collaboration. Since 2009, Water First has collaborated with 66 Indigenous communities located in the lands now known as Canada while supporting Indigenous youth and young adults to pursue careers in water science. Learn more:
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