First Nations youth—and the forest industryFirst Nations and forestry partnership

A new training program in B.C.—adopted from Ontario—hopes to help make a difference for First Nations youth—and the forest industry.

By Jim Stirling

Derek Orr plans on making a difference, 25 First Nations youths at a time.

A bush camp site near Prince George, B.C., is set to become the catalyst for releasing the potential of First Nations youth. Through a hands-on training process, Orr is confident the process will guide the young people toward more secondary education and finding employment in the forest industry and other natural resource sectors of the economy in central British Columbia.

Orr is the recently appointed business development manager for Carrier Lumber Ltd based in Prince George, and he’s driving the First Nations youth camp initiative.

First Nations youth—and the forest industryDerek Orr, plans on making a difference, 25 First Nations youths at a time. Orr is directing a First Nations youth camp initiative that will be set up near Prince George, B.C.

There are several key factors in favour of Orr’s plans for helping First Nations youth reaching fruition. For example, the dynamics of an ageing population aren’t going away. Addressing their impacts is only going to become more urgent. R&R these days means recruitment and retention for the forest industry and most other enterprises in Canada, as more skilled people retire and leave a vacuum in the work force. First Nations offer a valuable labour source—but the competition to attract them is gathering momentum.

Statistics show the young First Nations population is growing at about four times the rate of its white equivalent, says Orr. Reaping the full advantages of that statistic isn’t straightforward, of course. But that’s where the template offered by the Outland Youth Employment Program can prove invaluable. The program has been operating successfully in northern Ontario since 2000, employing more than 430 indigenous youth.

“The multi-year program offers a variety of natural resource-based field work opportunities and hand-on learning experiences,” says the Outland program in its material. Outland is based in another heavily forest industry reliant community, Thunder Bay. “Youth spend six weeks living in a remote camp setting in Northern Ontario alongside the full time camp management team, trainers and on-site teacher. During the program, youth have the opportunity to gain two senior level high school co-op credits and spend a week participating in Science Week at a local college or university.”

The Outland program has achieved other impressive statistics: a 94 per cent first year graduation rate among participants; a 98 per cent second year graduation rate; 60 per cent moved on to secondary education and training—and, importantly for the forest industry, 87 per cent of those were in the natural resource sectors of northern Ontario.

First Nations youth—and the forest industryWhile the B.C, First Nations youth camp program might differ depending on client and community need, it’s likely to include some of the hands-on training from the Ontario program specific to the forest industry, including familiarization with workplace safety standards and tree planting/juvenile spacing.

Some of the hands-on training from the Ontario program specific to the forest industry include familiarization with workplace safety standards and operating procedures; college classes in subjects like forest management and GIS/GSP applications; tree planting; juvenile spacing; and forest fire fighting training.

The program specifics might differ in the Prince George camp environment depending on client and community needs. But Orr is confident it will mirror the holistic and culturally supportive approach practiced by the Outland program in Ontario. “I like the program, having a few kids from different communities involved in a holistic approach to learning,” he says.

Orr has the background and desire to establish the pathway for a First Nations youth training model in central B.C. Apart from being a certified life skills coach, Orr was chief of the McLeod Lake Indian Band before joining Carrier Lumber. 
“I’ve seen and experienced the challenges in First Nations communities, the effects of poverty and limited education,” he says. And he knows too well the statistics and associated costs. He recognizes, for example, the social costs of the disproportionate numbers of aboriginal youth enmeshed in Canada’s correctional services. It’s a similarly sad story with the numbers of aboriginal children involved in foster care. “There are more children in care now than in the 1960s and the situation is not going to get any better if it’s continually ignored.”

First Nations youth—and the forest industryThe Canadian forest industry has an aging workforce, and as more people retire, there is a growing need to recruit new employees, especially young employees. Statistics show the young First Nations population is growing at about four times the rate of its white equivalent.

The McLeod Lake Indian Band began trying to create jobs for more of its people and introduce some options for the future through the possibilities associated with Duz Cho Logging Ltd. The company forged the necessary partnerships to keep it going through the tough times and consistently find new ways to succeed. Duz Cho is now well established as one of the largest First Nations-run logging companies in the region. The McLeod Lake band also runs sister companies delivering oil patch construction services and more recently added a cant processing plant in Mackenzie

First Nations youth—and the forest industryCarrier Lumber, Orr’s employer, is the first regional forest company to make a financial commitment to the Prince George area aboriginal youth camp drive. Orr is optimistic that more forest companies will follow suit, especially as they become more aware of its wide-ranging benefits. “We do see this as a long term initiative,” he adds.

But that said, Orr would like to see the camp start with its first 25 young people in July 2018. “Kids can come back for a second camp next year and if we get a few of those, they can help mentor the newcomers,” he adds.

“Both the College of New Caledonia and the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George are interested in coming aboard with the First Nations youth camp proposal in some capacity,” continues Orr. Support is also growing among the First Nations community itself, with the camps being viewed as a way to keep youth in school longer and providing them with marketable skills in the forest industry.

Using the Prince George camp proposal to keep more First Nations youth out of care services and off social assistance programs while preparing them for jobs in the forest industry makes sense and saves huge amounts of taxpayers’ money, believes Orr. “It’s really about the value of a better life,” he adds.

For more information about becoming involved with the Prince George First Nations employment camp, contact Derek Orr at: [email protected]

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
May/June 2018

On the Cover:
Rod Dillman Contracting crews were recently harvesting wildfire-blackened timber in the south Cariboo region of British Columbia. The fire-ravaged timber is the legacy from B.C.’s worst forest wild fire season, in 2017. Read about how they are approaching the salvage logging in this issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journal, beginning on page 20 (Cover photo courtesy of Southstar Equipment).


Spotlight: First Nations and forestry partnership
A new training program in B.C.—adopted from Ontario—hopes to help make a difference for First Nations youth, and the forest industry.

Big yarder investment
B.C.’s Western Forest Products has invested in logging equipment big-time recently, with the purchase of a LC650 grapple yarder from T-Mar Industries.

Australian Salvage Logging
Two Australian entrepreneurs have mastered a means of harvesting still-standing drowned forests from the bottom of hydro lakes in the Australian island state of Tasmania, and it involves some pretty interesting equipment.

Harvesting B.C.’s fire-ravaged forests
Rod Dillman Contracting is now tackling harvesting fire-salvage timber in the Cariboo region, one of the areas hit by B.C.’s worst forest fire season, when more than 12,000 square kilometres was burned by megafires.

Veteran sawyer chooses veteran mill equipment
When it came to setting up his own business, veteran sawyer Gary Francis decided to opt for decades of mill manufacturing experience, and purchased a TimberKing band mill—and it’s now at the centre of the business, known simply as … Gary’s Mill.

New and Noted at the Interior Logging Association’s 60th
We take a look at the new products that were one of the highlights of the 60th annual Interior Logging Association Conference and Trade Show, held in Kamloops in May.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and FPInnovations.

The Last Word
The Softwood Lumber Board may have a low key approach, but it has delivered some very solid results, says Jim Stirling.


Tech Update

Supplier Newsline

For all the latest industry news, subscribe to our twice monthly newsletter!


* indicates required