Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs
Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC) comprises of six First Nations located around North Battleford in Central Saskatchewan. BATC is comprised of Ahtahkakoop, Moosomin, Red Pheasant, Sweetgrass, Stoney Knoll and the Saulteaux First Nations. In the spring of 2007, the Chiefs clarified the roles and responsibilities of the newly formed Tribal Council in the Convention Act, thus creating BATC. The main goal being working together as a team and to improve the lives of their bands’ members.
Serving as a central development authority for these six First Nations, BATC is led by the six Chiefs and serves a population of over 8,500, focusing on improvement of all aspects that directly impact the tribes’ members’ lives, facilitating advisory services in areas of economic development, social and cultural aspects, community infrastructure development and maintenance, education, recreation, programs for seniors and youth, justice initiatives, and health initiatives.
“Each band may have a different view on execution of services or different needs, so the bands’ leaders guide us (BATC) as to how to approach their members and what services they require. We are guided by the core principle of thinking of our client first, and to always ensure that clients receive training and programs they need. Then we take it a step further by introducing the client to the workforce, we don’t stop at training and cut them loose. We address workforce barriers to prepare them to become self-sufficient. The vision of the Chiefs is to educate and train our people and to get them into the workforce,” says Ed Standinghorn, Director of Industry Relations.
BATC’s initiatives are directly tied into Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s National Child Benefit Reinvestment (NCBR), NCBR has been an integral part of financing for BATC programs. NCBR provides community-based support and services with five on-reserve activity areas: childcare, child nutrition, support for parents, home-to-work transition, and cultural enrichment. The goal of the program is to reduce the immediate effects of child poverty and decrease barriers for parents/guardians to become a part of the workforce.
Barriers, Goals and Results
Today, on-reserve members face various challenges in regard to the lack of work qualification and experience, lack of literacy, mental health issues, addictions, child care, limited transitional financial support and culture shock in the workplace or educational institutions. There are different arms of the BATC corporation — Economic Development, Employment and Training Centre, Industry Relations, and Social Development Aggregate.
BATC created a comprehensive plan to remedy these issues on case-by-case basis. BATC – calling its bands’ members “clients” – works with clients to achieve self-sufficiency and independent living through active participation in BATC programming, receiving assistance to overcome cultural, educational or skills related barriers.
“The Chiefs want the people to become self-sufficient and to stray away from social assistance dependency. The Chiefs’ focus is on reduction of social assistance clients for the reserves by five per cent per year, so we have developed programs to achieve this benchmark,” says Standinghorn.
The numbers are what counts, and to better determine the imminent barriers and needs of the clients, BATC so far created a comprehensive assessment of 2,400 clients. “We don’t only have a snapshot of our communities. We invested money to determine who lives in each house, what their level of education is and most importantly what barriers they face that prevent them from entering the workforce. As of February 1, BATC reduced the number of social assistance clients by 137, or 12.3 per cent, and projected income support savings of $800,000 (period ending March 31, 2013),” Standinghorn states.
BATC works to improve the on-reserves education level’s preparing youth for a life of fulfilling work and educational opportunities. BATC partnered with the University of Saskatchewan and its Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP). The graduates of the program receive a Bachelor of Education degree. Working through this initiative for the past several years, BATC efforts brought the first group of 13 graduates for the BATC’s First Nations in June, and the bands expect these educators to teach youth on reserves, and provide better future prospects for the youth and the reserves themselves.
“This is history in the making for us. The only difference between the standard U of S educator program and the ITEP program is that on top University of Saskatchewan program, we have elders’ support and guidance available to both the educators and our student body. Elders provide guidance in regard to customs, traditions and First Nations’ practices elders may feel may have been left behind and may require incorporation or re-introduction. They also provide support to students who may be struggling with cultural barriers and support them to achieve their goals,” says Standinghorn.
BATC also partnered with the North West Regional College to deliver a Workplace Essential Skills program to prepare their clients for the workforce or continue on with advanced education. This partnership sets aside seats to member first nations from Moosomin, Saulteaux, Red Pheasant, Sweetgrass and Ahtahkakoop.
Work Training and Industry Relations
BATC Employment & Training Centre assessed the social, economic and cultural issues, and created a comprehensive action plan and working with the band members on case-by-case basis towards their economic independence and prosperity. BATC creates partnership with educational entities and with the ol and gas sector in co-ordinanace with the Chiefs’ vision to educate and employ their membership.
BATC Petroleum Project is a three-year pilot project. The goal is to assist individuals find employment in the energy industry, including training, recruitment support, employment placement and support during employment. The Petroleum Project completes training at each member First Nation, and the course received highly positive response from the communities. Since the project’s inception, BATC achieved 266 work placements for band members through 58 industry related partnerships.
The BATC Industry Relations branch represents a united front of trained and work-ready First Nations individuals, stepping in front of the companies interested in working with the First Nations, and creating new work opportunities. “We are in a very unique position. We have an untapped workforce that we are willing to train and provide with an ongoing support, while we continue to support workers who may be still facing professional barriers, such as lack of experience, insufficient education, and so forth. We find a way to make things happen, we create hoppers of work-ready clients, supply the tools and break down barriers for those who may not have had exposure to the workforce prior to sending them out. We send good quality workers out and we know this is why industry has been receptive to our services.
“Whether it’s getting our people educated at the University of Saskatchewan or through our Industry Relations, our people often face culture shock because it’s often the first time they enter the workforce. That’s why we always try to have support for them. For example, we send our people to work in groups or have a mentor available, we always have someone who is affiliated with our tribal council on hand to clients or industry and we team them up so they can support each other. We also have to respect the fact that these individuals may be facing family challenges. For example, if they are leaving home for extended periods of time, their families may feel neglected or abandoned, so we provide support to families as well,” says Standinghorn.
BATC is a one stop shop for clients, industries, and communities. BATC works on a case-by-case basis to create a wholesome community-focused hub, serving clients and industries alike. BATC clients receive total support, industries receive a skilled and reliable workforce, and the BATC member First Nations communities receive the opportunity to increase their overall living standard.