According to Marlene Erickson, Director of Aboriginal Studies at CNC, transition rates from high school to post-secondary is quite low.

“Most students are coming in at age 30,” she told MyPGNow.

As a result, programs such as the Outland Youth Employment Program are aimed towards narrowing that gap.

“By then, they have families, they have bills to pay, and it makes it just that much more challenging to be successful with their studies. We’re wanting students to transition immediately to post-secondary, and that increases their chances of success. There’s also an under-representation of aboriginal students in science and tech programs, so this gives them the exposure to those programs.”

Indigenous high school students spent four days exploring post-secondary opportunities, which took place on both Prince George campuses of CNC and UNBC during Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) West’s Science Week.

OYEP is a local, community-driven initiative that works towards equity and opportunity for Indigenous Youth through land-based education, training, and work opportunities. Developed in 2000 as a forestry training initiative, OYEP has grown to a nation-wide opportunity with a network of more than 500 graduates from 71 communities across Canada.

“Science Week sits in between weeks of hands-on experience in forestry, mining, and energy sectors,” said Vanessa McGibbon, OYEP West Supervisor. “The rangers get exposed to all types of jobs that they can one day apply for, and our week at the school exposes them to coursework that will get them there. It is a great way to remind them how important their schoolwork is and push them to try their best when they go back to their communities.”

OYEP’s Science Week kicked off at CNC Aug. 6. Students received a tour of the campus before learning the ins-and-outs of the automotive trade, and more about natural resource clean energy projects with CNC’s Applied Research and Innovation department. The following day, students joined CNC’s Natural Resource and Forest Technology program on a trip to Ispah Lake where they got hands-on experience with research techniques while out in the field.  

“OYEP is an innovative program offering lifechanging opportunities for Indigenous youth throughout Canada,” said Edward Benoit, Dean of Community and Continuing Education at CNC. “We’re proud to partner with OYEP and UNBC to offer students an immersive post-secondary experience while in Prince George for Science Week.” 

August 8, the OYEP program went to UNBC for a tour of the campus. Following that, students then participated in forestry activities such as tree coring, dating culturally modified trees, and tree identification in the I.K Barber Enhanced Forestry Laboratory. The next day, students received a terrestrial vertebrate lab demo and participate in fish lab exercises before concluding the week with a bioenergy tour.

“We’re pleased to welcome Indigenous students to our campus where they will gain hands-on knowledge from our award-winning researchers,” said UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks. “It’s an opportunity to showcase UNBC as a warm, welcoming learning environment and that develops teamwork, leadership, and innovation.”