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Water First set to begin fourth First Nations water operator intern partnership

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Water-First-Interns
Drinking water operator interns from Georgian Bay collect benthics in order to understand water quality under a previous intern partnership organized by Water First. Photo credit: Water First Education & Training Inc.

Some 14 interns will be recruited from seven northern Ontario First Nations to pursue entry level water operator training or water quality analyst certifications to kick off their careers in the water field under the new North Shore Tribal Council (NSTC) Water First Internship.

Beginning in the summer of 2022, each intern can gain 1,800 hours of on-the-job experience at water treatment plants over the 15-month program, moving them closer to provincial certification to work in either drinking water treatment or the environmental water field.

The announcement was made on World Water Day (March 22) from Mamaweswen, also known as The North Shore Tribal Council, by Angus Toulouse, Mamaweswen CEO, who said more young, local operators are needed to help continue providing safe drinking water to First Nations communities.

“With their focus on running local water plants, our operators are simply too busy to also design and deliver a comprehensive recruitment, training and tutoring program like the one Water First offers,” Toulouse announced in a statement. “Through this important partnership, we look forward to supporting the next generation of local water operators who will help protect the health and well-being of their communities and families,” he added.

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NSTC’s head office is located on the Serpent River in Cutler, Ontario, about 30 minutes south of Elliot Lake.

Partly funded through NSTC and member First Nations program resources, with the support of Water First’s donors, the internship program will be the fourth internship partnership for the organization. The charity formed a partnership with eight First Nations in the Georgian Bay area that will see interns graduate in the fall of 2022, completed two internships with the Bimose Tribal Council and 11 affiliated First Nations, and also has a pilot program on Manitoulin Island in partnership with seven First Nations.

Nathan Pamajewon, an intern from Shawanaga First Nation, shared his experience with the program in the joint statement, noting that he’d “been given the chance to obtain greater things in life.” He also added that he wants “to see our community grow and become the best it can be.”

To date, Water First has partnered to facilitate 35 interns from 25 Indigenous communities to become certified as operators-in-training.

John Millar, executive director at Water First, announced that his group is thrilled to be working to implement the “critical” program.

“Through a mix of locally based trainings and hands-on experience in water plants, the interns learn and apply the skills needed to perform an important role for communities in addressing local water challenges, both now and in the future,” noted Millar.

The North Shore Tribal Council First Nations are: Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, Batchewana First Nation, Garden River First Nation, Thessalon First Nation, Mississauga First Nation, Serpent River First Nation, and Sagamok Anishnawbek.

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