The Seven Generations Education Institute will be saying goodbye to the old and hello to a new, state-of-the-art facility thanks to an $8.7-million investment from the federal government.
Local MP Don Rusnak made the announcement Friday at La Place Rendez-Vous, on behalf of Innovation, Science and Economic Development minister Navdeep Bains, for the new Centre for Advanced Technology and Skills.
“Funding for the Centre for Advanced Technology and Skills will enable students, teachers, and researchers at Seven Generations Education Institute to integrate its apprenticeship/essential skills trades training, secondary school First Nations’ students success, and post-secondary programs under one roof and allow for a broader range of learning incorporating language and cultural practices,” Rusnak noted.
“These investments will position Canada as a global leader in research excellence and innovation,” he added.
“They will support current and future generations of young people as they train—and invent—the high-value jobs of the future.”
Rusnak noted the SGEI is a perfect example of collaboration between industry and educational institutes on training for the jobs that are needed.
“And that’s so important in Northwestern Ontario with a burgeoning mining sector and with New Gold’s project a little bit west of here,” he remarked.
“This project is a perfect fit and one that our government was proud to invest in.”
SGEI chief executive officer Brent Tookenay said the new facility will provide tremendous opportunities for the people of the Treaty #3 area.
“When we look at life-long learning; Seven Gens has always been committed to this,” he noted.
“This facility will allow us to expand the opportunities for students and our communities through language, culture, technology, and pathways.
“Being able to move past the residential school legacy is very important for our people,” Tookenay added. “It’s not easy.
“I look at this as a fresh start for our people so they can embrace the language and culture, and make it part of their educational journey.
“It’s all about meeting our communities’ needs—not only First Nations but everybody in the Treaty #3 area,” he stressed.
Tookenay said the SGEI decided to look into the possibility of a new facility since it has been housed in the Nanicost building—an old residential school—for the past 30 years.
“There are just limited opportunities because it’s an older building,” he explained.
“We wanted to have a facility where we could have everybody under one roof and have a facility that would allow us to expand on our programing, meaning the trades and apprenticeships.”
The 23,000-25,000 square feet building will be located on Agency One land on the north side of School Road, between the highway and the Treaty #3 Police station.
They already have acknowledged the land and purpose through ceremony with their chiefs and elders.
“And today with the commitment of the federal government, we move to the next stage of this journey,” Tookenay said, noting they already have completed soil testing and have preliminary designs.
The SGEI is hoping to break ground in the spring, with the building opening in 2018.
Tookenay said there was an initial “wow” factor when they first saw the design for the facility.
“The design is kind of a longhouse,” he explained. “That represents our strong identity, histories, and traditions.
“And moving forward with this, it’s going to be a really good journey seeing this developed.”
The building will house administration, classrooms, trades centre, a circle room, and library, and it will be a technology hub.
“It will help support learners,” Tookenay stressed, adding the new facility also will help to build new partnerships within the community and strengthen the ones the SGEI already has.
“The main thing is having more space to do things,” Tookenay said, citing there are some spaces in the facility designated for the trades programs.
SGEI currently is offering programs located in different places in town, such as the esthetician program on Scott Street and the building construction technician one on Sixth Street.
“Sometimes you need services from other areas in the organization and they are located all over it makes it difficult at times, so it will be nice to have everything under one roof,” he reasoned.
Rusnak, meanwhile, said the funding is one of the largest investments made recently by the federal government in this region.
“It’s a pleasure for me, just being a guy from the region who wants to do good for the region and see good,” he stressed.
“I look forward to seeing the kids come through this new facility and smiles on their faces to have the leading technology right in the Fort Frances area,” Rusnak added, saying the new centre will educate for the jobs that are here now—and those that are going to come in the future.
“Kids are our future and we want to make sure that we can train here and we don’t have to go away from the region,” he stressed.