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Drinking Water 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 transportation and access to childcare services, to ensure the program works for a diverse set of participants.

35 interns from 25 Indigenous communities certified as Operators-in-Training
Over 50,000 hours of hands-on training in water treatment plants to date

More than just a water science training program

Designed to engage young Indigenous adults, the program meets them where they are at and builds from there. Along with skills and experience, interns feel an increase in confidence and a deeper connection to the land and their community. They flourish in being part of a program that leads to not only a job, but a career. They become part of a long-term, sustainable solution – providing safe drinking water in their communities.

The learning doesn’t stop when the program finishes. Many of our graduates have continued to pursue further certifications after completing the program. Through the Water First Alumni Network, they can remain engaged, build local networks and access opportunities for ongoing professional development and peer support.

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
Water First Alumni

How it Got Started

Expanding to meet pressing community demand

The Internship program was originally developed in 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. Following the success of the pilot, we have since launched two more partnerships.

Internship 1

Manitoulin Island • 2017-2018

Internship 2

Kenora Area • 2020-2021

Partners:

Number of Graduates: 11

Internship 3

Georgian Bay Area • 2021-2022

Internship 4

North Shore Area • 2022-2023

Partners:

Number of Interns: 14

It is clear that the water crisis in Indigenous communities requires effective and ambitious community-based solutions.

The Internship Program was featured in an article in the Toronto Star. In the article, graduates Jamie Lee Parenteau from Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation and Nathan Copenace from Washagamis Bay First Nation share their experiences of participating in the program. They shed light on what being part of the next generation of young adults providing clean drinking water to their communities means to them, their families, and their communities.

We know that given the opportunity, knowledge, and skills — young Indigenous adults will take the lead in providing safe, clean drinking water, sustainably, to their families and communities. They are committed. To their community. To the water.

Water First has been in discussions with Indigenous communities across the country interested in hosting the program. The fourth Drinking Water internship will be launched with the North Shore Tribal Council in the summer of 2022.