Cenovus Energy has partnered with Lac La Biche’s Portage College for a basic home construction and maintenance program to residents of Conklin, Janvier, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation and three other communities in the Cenovus Indigenous housing initiative.
The six-month course teaches people how to build and maintain homes locally. Students develop entry-level construction skills that can be used towards a trade certification. The program begins recruiting students in upcoming weeks.
“This program will benefit our community lots,” said Shirley Tremblay, president of Conklin Métis Local 193. “It builds capacity and will give them the knowledge of carpentry or plumbing that they would need to pursue their education.”
Tremblay said the program will be taught in the community and students can work directly with instructors as houses are built.
Portage College spokesperson Jaime Davies said students will build a “legacy building” for their communities during the program. This could include a gazebo, greenhouse or workshop.
“The communities have been involved in the design of the training program from the beginning,” said Davies in an email. “They provide input into what training would most benefit the, how training could best be delivered and what would help make the program successful.”
The program is part of a broader $50 million, five-year project to build about 200 new homes in Indigenous communities facing a housing crisis. There is the potential to stretch the project to 10 years and a $100 million commitment.
The other communities in the program are Heart Lake First Nation and Beaver Lake Cree Nation, both near Lac La Biche; and Cold Lake First Nations.
Cenovus said the company reviewed multiple program proposals from local colleges, but did not confirm which colleges reached out. Keyano College would not confirm if they made a proposal to Cenovus.
“Portage College was chosen because their proposal met the needs of our communities and the expectations we have for the training program,” said Cenovus spokesperson Sonja Franklin. “They have a long history of working with Indigenous communities to deliver quality training programs.”
By Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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