The Bladerunners program in Hazelton’s First Nation’s High School (FNHS) is one of many in western Canada creating hope in young adults who previously had few options for future work prospects.
Steve Arnett, Bladerunners representative, returned to Hazelton to share his personal story with students and staff.
“A woman named Grace Nielsen, who I was at a conference with about 12 years ago asked me, ‘where are you from?’,” Arnett said.
“I rattled off a bunch of places I had lived and when I was done she said, ‘yes, where are you from?’”
Arnett told the students about how whenever he spent time around Nielsen she would ask him where he was from and, to him, he thought she was teasing him.
One day it dawned on him to begin researching his ancestry and family he had abandoned when he was 15 years-old.
“I went back to my family about two years ago to visit an uncle who had developed leukemia,”Arnett said.
“I met him at the airport and he came up and gave me a hug and I finally felt like I was home.”
He told the students part of his story to relate to them how important family bonds are to First Nations people and how without them we have no home.
“It is my honour to have anything to do with the Gitxsan people,” Arnett said.
Patty Rubinato, a teacher at the FNHS, added that a large part of knowing who you are is knowing where you come from.
FNHS students have been constructing individual family trees to trace their ancestry.
The funding for Bladerunners has been in operation since 1994 and comes from the federal and provincial governments, the B.C. jobs plan and ACCESS, the aboriginal community career employment services.
Each community Bladerunners becomes part of has free-reign to form a curriculum or skill-building program that suits the community and student needs.
In Vancouver there are several high-rise buildings needing skilled workers, so the program there trains individuals to become iron workers that will eventually become foremen and lead a crew.
Both Roger’s Arena (formerly GM Place) and the Woodward’s apartment building had several Bladerunners-trained workers involved during construction.
The current Bladerunners program ends in December and another program will begin.
The new program will work in conjunction with a new grocery store owned and operated by the Gitanmaax band.
Nearly every part of the upcoming program will train students to work in a retail grocery environment.
Certificates are a large part of current and upcoming programs, such as, World Host, Serving It Right and Occupational First Aid.
The graduates last June focused on learning elements of the Gitxsan culture that would translate well to the tourism industry.
“The young people that come into the program with a blank resume, leave with skills and qualifications making them readily employable,” Arnett said.
The next portion of Bladerunners will start early in the new year.
To register for the program call the FNHS at 250-842-2248.