The Water First Internship Program

Intern to Operator in Just 15 Months

The Water First Internship Program supports young Indigenous interns to become certified water treatment plant operators. This approach ensures sustainable access to safe drinking water in Indigenous communities for the long term.

In 15 months, interns receive over 2,000 hours of training and experience in the classroom, at local water treatment facilities, and out on the land. The program is a paid internship that provides hands-on skills training and supports interns to obtain three provincially recognized certifications. The Internship also looks beyond technical skills, providing interns with support in areas such as resume writing, employment coaching and networking opportunities. Wrap-around supports are provided, like access to childcare services, to ensure the program works for a diverse set of participants.

"Before this job, I didn't care where the water came from. I turned on the tap and that's it. I came in for a job and came out with a career. Because of this, my son and I are set."

Amy Waboose, Whitefish River First Nation
Amy Waboose

More than just a water science training program

The program was originally developed in close partnership with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, and the Anishinabek Nation, representing 39 First Nations in northern Ontario. Piloted in 2017-2018 with seven First Nations communities on Manitoulin Island, the program was incredibly successful and significantly exceeded expectations among the project partners.

In 2020, a second internship was launched in partnership with the Bimose Tribal Council representing 11 First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario. To date, 11 of the 13 interns have earned their Operator In Training certifications and have successfully completed their Entry Level Course. Interns will challenge the Water Quality Analyst certification in the coming months, thus opening doors to work within the environmental field as well. Interns will be graduating in the spring of 2021.

How it Got Started

Expanding to meet pressing community demand

A prospective First Nations partner recently shared, “This program will solve all of the problems we are having on so many different levels.” The internship represents a profound shift for the community and its members.

In November 2020, the Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nations and Water First announced our new water training partnership. In 2021, we will be launching a third internship to support approx. 12 young Indigenous adults from six participating First Nations communities.

The Interns

Click on an icon to learn a bit about the intern(s) in that community.