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The program trains Indigenous IT specialists for First Nations

A new program is helping train Indigenous IT specialists for First Nations communities, expanding the sphere of learning as connectivity grows in more remote locations.

Many First Nations communities, such as the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation in Manitoba, lack IT professionals and have had to rely on outsourced IT services from major cities.

“The fact that we don’t have that support in place right now and the fact that we have so many growing businesses — over 210 employees — in Brokenhead, we need that. We need those services Brenda Greyeyes, who works as the employment, training and economic development manager for the Brokenhead Community Resource Center, told CTV News.

But the Indigenous IT training program aims to fill this critical need, while providing career development opportunities for community members. The year-long program teaches participants all about networking programs, troubleshooting computer hardware issues, and even protecting against ransomware and other cybersecurity threats.

“We would go to the First Nations communities, we would bring the training to them. We would take more of a results-based approach, more of an Indigenous style of learning,” Joel Dandeneau of ID Fusion, the Indigenous-led IT company that runs the program. , told CTV News.

Jasmine Benoit has been familiarizing herself with computer work thanks to the program since October. She restarted her career after leaving a job in child care and hopes to work in her home First Nation when she graduates from the program.

“My goal is to work in my home community and provide fast IT services to all entities and businesses in Brokenhead,” Benoit told CTV News.

“It’s different, but it’s also fun because you learn how things work.”

Dandeneau believes a program like this is critical as more and more Indigenous communities build their fiber optic infrastructure and gain better connectivity.

“We want to be proactive and have these people who can support this technology going forward,” Dandeneau said.

“It’s an opportunity to pass that learning on to them and build that capacity, create jobs, and then show the value to the community,” he added.

So far, the program has involved two technicians in three different Manitoba First Nations, and there are plans to expand the project to more northern and remote communities.

“What we’re going to do is learn from this project and ask ourselves, what does the next model look like? And then how can this model be kind of rolled out to other First Nations communities across the country? So we’re very excited to test that,” Dandeneau said.

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