Background on OYEP
Dexterra Group’s Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) is a national network of innovative education, training, and work opportunities for Indigenous youth. These opportunities include our wrap-around support services, available across the country and our award-winning six-week, land-based summer programs in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia.
The program takes an inclusive approach to Indigenous education, recruitment, and retention. It provides a safe and predictable learning environment tailored to meet the needs of local communities and partners.
The primary objective is to provide real-life, hands-on experience to various work environments and spaces in the natural resources sector, including land-based and web- based options. The program provides youth with exposure to industries in the sector which can help them become more well-positioned to pursue career opportunities in these fields.
Program managers worked strategically and diligently to ensure that the program runs smoothly while adapting to the pandemic’s challenges. The program adheres to provincial, territorial, federal and industry best health and safety practices and respects community partners’ concerns and questions.
Employment Opportunities for Graduates
The program this year ran from July 12th to August 27th. For many young participants, the program was their first employment experience and first time away from home. However, the program has also provided employment opportunities for returning graduates who come back in management positions.
For example, this year’s OYEP Mink Lake Camp’s management team was fully staffed by program graduates – Ben Langille, Seine River First Nation; Sage Moses, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg; and Meghan Jourdain, Fort William First Nation.
Offering an Inclusive Work Experience
The program offered a holistic experience, including a mental, physical, spiritual, and emotionally diverse and supportive environment while ensuring a robust work experience. Where COVID-19 regulations allowed, youth also regularly engaged in cultural practices such as smudging, drum circles and talking circles. OYEP collaborates with local Indigenous communities and consults with elders to ensure youth feel culturally and spiritually supported in the workplace.
Overview of the 2021 Program
During the six weeks, youth participants engaged in different paid work projects, mostly in forestry services such as tree planting and brush cutting operations, but not before receiving mandatory safety and skills-specific training.
Comprehensive Safety Training
The program was kicked off with orientation that included an introduction to our safety program, including ‘Don’t Walk By,’ an initiative by the Dexterra Group to encourage workplace safety. The youth learned about understanding and adhering to expectations from any new employer, safe operating procedures and learned the importance of Personal Protective Equipment.
Other training modules included First Aid and courses like Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) by the Ministry of Labour, Bear Awareness and general policies and protocol.
Week two focus was hands-on training, making the youth comfortable and confident with small engine care and maintenance and safety protocol. The training was provided by certified instructors. Youth also learned about Brushsaw safety, Chainsaw Safety and Emergency Forest Fire fighting training.
The following four weeks were a combination of fieldwork and a natural resources-based curriculum tailored to regional needs. Fieldwork included tree planting, trail clearing and brush cutting at all sites across the country.
“Esker Lake Youth planted 10,000 trees in a day and a half. I was amazed at how some of them were naturals at the tree planting,” commented Glendon Wabasse, Webequie First Nation, OYEP Esker Crew Leader and former OYEP participant.
TransCanada Trail Week
The 2021 TransCanada Trail week was dedicated to trail education and training.
Trans Canada Trail (TCT) designed a curriculum to provide OYEP participants with an understanding of trails and trail use; and how to plan, sustainably design, build and maintain a trail, all under the guidance of instructors recruited by TCT. The trail week incorporated training from the Ontario Parks Association (OPA) in Ontario, and all youth who completed the training received OPA’s Trail Specialist Certificate.
“Trans Canada Trail has an important role to play in the essential act of reconciliation and relationship building with Indigenous peoples. Our partnership with OYEP signifies our shared commitment to reconciliation and relationship building. We are proud to provide this trail education week in OYEP’s summer program and help develop the next generation of Canada’s trail builders,” said Eleanor McMahon, President & CEO, Trans Canada Trail.
This year’s program had some unique challenges, including adhering to ever-changing pandemic health & safety protocols, but the youth showed a ton of resiliency and determination to succeed no matter the challenge.
The inclusion of the TCT education and training greatly enriched the experience for Indigenous youth participants, and we look forward to further integration of trail building education.
To learn more about OYEP, visit the program’s website here.