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Environmental monitors ready for workforce

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 22, 2012

"Everything that's happening around here, there's no shortage of monitoring jobs," said Kevin Smith, program head for the lands and environment programs at Aurora College.

NNSL photo/graphic

Edward Abel, left, offers a fist bump to Ryan Sisson, instructor of the environmental monitor training program, after receiving his record of achievement for the program at the Ndilo Community Learning Centre on Wednesday. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

That's good news for the eight Ndilo students who recently completed a five-week environmental monitor training program put on by the college in partnership with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

The students received their records of achievement at the Ndilo Community Learning Centre on Wednesday and are now free to look for employment or to continue their education with more courses.

The program is designed to give people skills so they can get into the workforce, said Smith, and it covers all the practical skills needed to conduct monitoring activities such as water and soil sampling, air quality recording, gaining experience with GPS units and using a compass, and training in firearms safety, boat safety, first aid and transportation of dangerous goods.

The curriculum is based on the national occupational standards for environmental monitors.

"What a lot of the program does is it spends a lot of time ensuring the participants are able to properly document what they see in the field," said Smith.

The program will prepare graduates for work on various projects, such as pipeline construction, seismic, fishing, mining, and oil and gas operations. Smith said in the Yellowknife area, the Giant Mine Remediation Project is a good example of the types of projects the students could pursue in the future.

He said there's a protocol that a department or company will have to get the students familiar with, including the terms, documentation, reinforcement with photographs and GPS points so when a technician, biologist or soil chemist are looking at the fieldwork in an office, they are able to figure out exactly what the monitor saw at that time and place.

Ryan Sisson, instructor for the course, said it's important to demonstrate field experience as much as possible, so students will be ready when they head out into the field.

"That's something that we spend a lot of time trying to do, getting students onto the land and simulate conditions they would experience in the workforce," he said.

Aurora College has hosted about 30 of the courses across the NWT since the program's inception in 2006 and it is only delivered to the communities that request the course.

The only other time it was in the Yellowknife area was in Dettah in 2008.

"This is a great program because it gives community members the skills that they need to monitor what's going on with resource development. Bands and land claim groups are very interested in it," Smith said.

"This is a way to not rely on southern consultants. You can get band members trained."

Smith handed Kyle Sangris his record of achievement on Wednesday. Sangris said he's going to start looking for work or see what other courses are available to further his education.

"It's a good way to learn more about the land and culture and how scientific uses are being brought up to us on the land, and I want to see what studies are being done," he said.

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