A partnership between Southeast Regional College, Cowessess First Nation and Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council has enhanced the skills of First Nation students eager to learn the academics of cooking and serving.
Southeast Regional College received funding from Workplace Essential Skills Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Indian Training Assessment Group Inc. for the 12 week program which began on Feb. 21.
The “Ready to Work: Cooking and Serving” program will turnover 15 graduates on May 11, adding seven weeks of Workplace Essential Skills, one week of Safety Training and four weeks of Hands-on Skill Training to their portfolios.
“We’re bringing the training to where the students are,” said Gloria Stevenson, aboriginal consultant with Southeast Regional College. “In some cases it’s difficult for the student to come to Whitewood or to go to Weyburn or Estevan because of transportation or daycare issues. This way the training is right here and it’s more easily accessible for them. We find the students are much more successful.”
Students have established a temporary mock restaurant in the Old School gym where they have been preparing and serving meals on a regular basis. The mock “Old School Café” provides students with practical experience, and opportunity to put their skills and knowledge into practise.
Ready to Work: Cooking and Serving student Brittney Bear said she enrolled in the program because it appealed to her culinary interests.
“The opportunity came up and I just went for it,” she said from a luncheon hosted on May 3. “It’s amazing to learn something that you didn’t think you could learn.”
“Everybody’s been saying very positive things,” said Bear. “They’re proud of us.”
Southeast Regional College formed in 1975 and while the institution has partnered with First Nations since its inception, programming has increased dramatically over the past five years said Stevenson.
Charlene Sparvier, with Cowessess Labour Force Development, said partnerships such as the Ready to Work program are essential in bringing opportunity to aboriginal students on and off reserve.
Community members just can’t believe the confidence the students have now and the smiles they wear on their faces. - Charlene Sparvier, with Cowessess Labour Force Development
“Our focus is to have all of our able bodies educated and employed,” said Sparvier. “We have over a hundred (on reserve) residents who are not working and are on social assistance, so working with our partners helps us to train them right to find employment.”
Students from the Ready to Work: Cooking and Serving program will graduate with a National Workplace Essential Skills Certificate. Students are currently in their job search stage, with the assistance of job mentoring support staff, and will go on to secure jobs in the tourism and professional industry. Some students are also pursuing further education.
“The response has been awesome,” said Sparvier. “Community members just can’t believe the confidence the students have now and the smiles they wear on their faces.”
“I’m really proud,” she said. “I’m really proud of this program.”