Yukon University takes on federal First Nations water operator training

Under the new delivery model, Indigenous Services Canada is hoping for greater levels of participation by First Nations in both programs, as well as more opportunities to promote water and wastewater operator collaboration, recruitment and retention. Photo credit: Youtube, Yukon University

Yukon University has agreed to deliver the classroom and certification portions of Indigenous Services Canada’s (ISC) Circuit Rider Training Program (CRTP) for First Nations water and wastewater systems operators.

Under the CRTP, experts rotate through a circuit of First Nations communities, training the people responsible for operating, monitoring and maintaining drinking water and wastewater systems. Now, ISC states that centralizing delivery of the CRTP and the Yukon Water and Wastewater Operator Program (YWWOP) within Yukon University, will “enhance the delivery of both programs, benefiting water and wastewater operators and the communities they serve,” said a university announcement.

“The Circuit Rider Training Program provides on-site training, troubleshooting and mentorship directly in First Nations communities. However, the program does not deliver the classroom instruction required for all operators in the region to gain and maintain the certifications necessary to operate community water systems,” explained Michael Vernon, senior communications coordinator for Yukon University, in an email to ES&E Magazine.

Until 2023, the federal department is investing more than $411,000 for water and wastewater initiatives at the university, including some $331,000 for delivery of the CRTP’s new delivery model. This builds on the approximately $168,000 provided over 2021-2022 for Yukon University to recruit a CRTP coordinator to deliver the program this fiscal year.

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“We look forward to the opportunities for educational outreach, water and wastewater management and infrastructure support, and the training and research that can flow from this consolidated delivery model,” announced Dr. Lesley Brown, Yukon University president and vice-chancellor, in a statement.

Yukon University, formerly Yukon College, received university status in the spring of 2020, becoming Canada’s first university located north of the 60th parallel. It is now a hybrid institution that offers trades programming, academic upgrading, certificates, diplomas, degrees and applied research.

Earlier this year, the university added a mobile water treatment lab to provide hands-on training experience to operators and students.

Under the new delivery model, ISC states that there will be greater levels of participation by First Nations in both programs, as well as more opportunities to promote water and wastewater operator collaboration, recruitment and retention. ISC officials also said that a centralized delivery model will improve support for First Nations leadership and managers who oversee community water and wastewater systems management.

“There has always been a fair amount of cross-over between the two programs,” Vernon said. “For example, the experts contracted through CRTP provide guidance on the frequency and course options delivered by YWWOP and also provide instruction for some of the courses. Bringing the two programs together at YukonU will allow for greater synergy that we believe will lead to increased opportunities for collaboration between operators and communities, for promotion of the water and wastewater operator career path, and retention of existing operators. It will also offer greater opportunity for applied research on northern community water and wastewater systems.”

CRTP experts also give advice to chiefs and councils on how to develop safe water systems. In some regions, they also provide 24/7 emergency support to communities.

Yukon University said it will continue to run YWWOP for other operators in the region. It has been delivering the program since 2009, helping current and prospective water operators gain and enhance the skills and certifications needed to work and succeed in the drinking water and water sanitation sectors. The program is funded by ISC in partnership with the Government of Yukon.

ISC invests some $12 million per year in the CRTP.

This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s August 2022 issue:

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