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 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.
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.
It is clear that the water crisis in Indigenous communities requires effective and ambitious community-based solutions.
The Internship Program was recently 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 experience 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 next Drinking Water internship will be launched in 2022.