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Royal Roads University and First Nations Technology Council partner for tech education

The program provides six technical and innovation streams to indigenous groups
First Nations Technology Council Executive Director, Denise Williams, and Royal Roads University President, Allan Cahoon, shake hands at the partnership event for FiiT at Royal Roads Feb. 23. (Dan Anthon/ Royal Roads University)

The First Nations Technology Council (FNTC) and Royal Roads University have partnered to expand access to digital skills training for Indigenous innovators.

The program introduced by the partnership is called Foundations in Innovation and Technology (FiiT) and was developed by FNTC to allow Indigenous people the opportunity to explore careers within the province’s technoloy and innovation sector. Royal Roads’ Centre for Teaching and Education Technologies will provide the platform to deliver the programs beginning in fall 2018.

FiiT is the brainchild of FTNC executive director Denise Williams, who started the project four years ago, revised the model two years ago and just recently received funding for it.

There are currently six practical, project-based streams: web development and coding, GIS/GPS and mapping, social media, software testing, network technician, and MS Office professionals. For programs like web development the training is provided entirely through FiiT, and for other programs FiiT is the convener and students will be directed to partners and receive mentorship from indigenous-led organizations to help students move to the next academic or professional step, Williams said.

“The B.C. tech report that came out last year identified where talent shortages in the province will be,” Williams said. “So we built this in response to where we know there is going to be talent shortages in the tech and innovation sector at a foundational level.”

Network technicians are particularly important to indigenous communities to address connectivity issues in remote locations and problems with infrastructure.

One of the first graduates of the FiiT pilot web developer program, Bryce Sayers of Métis decent, found the program challenging, but was provided the support he needed and feels it was a very rewarding experience.

“A little less than a year ago I was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan working a dead-end job, where it’s extremely cold and there’s barely any tech in sight,” Sayers said. “But today I’m happy to say I live and work in metro Vancouver as a web developer. This was achieved only with the help of the FNTC, they have allowed me to pursue a career path I enjoy, and with that opportunity, I have ended up in a place I couldn’t imagined I would be.”

Sayers is a full-stack developer at Predicted Property, which links buyers and sellers of real estate.

FiiT is broken into two segments: foundations and futures. Foundations gives students a taste of all six programs in two weeks and futures is the specialized stream and the timeframe is different for each. In Sayers’ case, it was an eight-week program, five days a week in the classroom and two days a week at an internship.

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) is the third partner and founding member of FiiT. NVIT has been a public, post-secondary since 1995 with a specific Indigenous mandate that will help deliver in-person instruction. NVIT delivers post-secondary for Indigenous youth that don’t want to leave their communities, and has students from 65 per cent of B.C.’s 203 bands.

Allan Cahoon, Royal Roads president, said that through collaboration these three very different organizations are able to achieve something they wouldn’t be able to do individually.

The Province’s first innovation commissioner, Alan Winter, was also in attendance at the event and discussed the importance of this initiative when it comes to the supercluster bid. This is a federal bid to bring innovation and investment to B.C. for Canada’s digital technology supercluster, Williams also participates with this team.

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