Royal Roads University and First Nations Technology Council partner for tech education

Indigenous Tech Education Through Partnership Between Royal Roads University and First Nations Technology Council

Royal Roads University and First Nations Technology Council partner for tech education

First Nations Technology Council Executive Director, Denise Williams, and Royal Roads University President, Allan Cahoon, shake hands at the partnership event for FiiT at Royal Roads Feb. 23. (Dan Anthon/ Royal Roads University)

The First Nations Technology Council (FNTC) have partnered with Royal Roads University to expand access to technology skills training for Indigenous innovators.

The partnership has introduced a program called Foundations in Innovation and Technology (FiiT).

FiiT was developed by FNTC to allow and encourage opportunities for Indigenous people across the province to explore careers within BC’s growing tech and innovation sector. Royal Roads’ Centre for Teaching and Education Technologies will provide the platform to deliver the programs beginning in fall 2018.

The tech education program provides six technical and innovation streams to Indigenous groups

The program began four years ago, FiiT under the leadership of FTNC executive director Denise Williams.  While it has evolved – a revision of the model developed two years ago – the recent injection of funding has created a new level of excitement about the scope of possibilities available to the program.

There are currently six practical, project-based streams: web development and coding, GIS/GPS and mapping, social media, software testing, network technician, and MS Office professionals. For programs like web development the training is provided entirely through FiiT, and for other programs FiiT is the convener and students will be directed to partners and receive mentorship from indigenous-led organizations to help students move to the next academic or professional step, Williams said.

“The B.C. tech report that came out last year identified where talent shortages in the province will be,” Williams said. “So we built this in response to where we know there is going to be talent shortages in the tech and innovation sector at a foundational level.”

With connectivity and infrastructure issues in remote locations an ongoing problem for indigenous communities, the opportunities for new Network technicians are particularly important and promising.

One of the first graduates of the FiiT pilot web developer program, Bryce Sayers of Métis decent, found the program challenging, but was provided the support he needed and feels it was a very rewarding experience.

“A little less than a year ago I was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan working a dead-end job, where it’s extremely cold and there’s barely any tech in sight,” Sayers said. “But today I’m happy to say I live and work in metro Vancouver as a web developer. This was achieved only with the help of the FNTC, they have allowed me to pursue a career path I enjoy, and with that opportunity, I have ended up in a place I couldn’t imagined I would be.”

Sayers is a full-stack developer at Predicted Property, which links buyers and sellers of real estate.

FiiT is divided into two segments: foundations and futures. Foundations gives students an introduction to all six programs in two weeks; and futures is the specialized stream, providing longer terms of study. Sayers’, for example, participated in an eight-week program, five days a week in the classroom and two days a week at an internship.

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) is the third partner and founding member of FiiT. NVIT has been a public, post-secondary since 1995 with a specific Indigenous mandate that will help deliver in-person instruction. NVIT delivers post-secondary for Indigenous youth that don’t want to leave their communities, and has students from 65 per cent of B.C.’s 203 bands.

Allan Cahoon, Royal Roads president, said that through collaboration these three very different organizations are able to achieve something they wouldn’t be able to do individually.

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