The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) has awarded the third annual Skills Award for Aboriginal Youth to Shownoo Blackbird-Williams from Walpole Island First Nation in Ontario.
The $2,500 award is targeted at youth from 18 to 30 who are enrolled in an apprenticeship program, college, or university, who are a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit individual with strong academic standing, and who are committed to their field of study and a career in the revitalized forest sector.
"Shownoo has a strong desire to better himself and his family and he hopes to use his Aboriginal community values to help develop the forest products industry," says David Lindsay, president and CEO of FPAC. "The forest sector benefits greatly from the hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication of Shownoo and other committed Aboriginal youth."
Blackbird-Williams left the Canadian Military when he heard that he was expecting a son. To be a good role model and further his education, he enrolled in the First Nations Forestry Technician Program at the Anishinabek Education Institute at Muncey Campus, associated with Fleming College. Blackbird-Williams intends to pursue a career in forestry while also running an eco-tourism business. He has also been an active participant in the Walpole Island Forest Regeneration Project where he gained experience in the Arboricultural field.
"I feel truly honoured to receive this award so that I can continue my studies," says Blackbird-Williams. "As an Aboriginal, I recognize the future potential of the forest sector and I want to be part of this revitalized industry. Working in the forest sector is the right decision for my family."
The forest products industry is already one of the largest employers of Aboriginals and underVision2020, is committed to recruiting more entrepreneurs and skilled workers in rural forestry communities including Aboriginal youth.
The Skills Award for Aboriginal Youth builds on the FPAC Aboriginal Business Leadership Award which recognizes and celebrates Aboriginal entrepreneurs for success in a forest products business.
FPAC is the voice of Canada's forest producers nationally and internationally in government, trade and environmental affairs. Canada's forest products industry is a $58-billion dollar a year industry that represents 11% of Canada's manufacturing GDP. The industry is one of Canada's largest employers, operating in hundreds of Canadian communities and providing more than 230,000 direct jobs across the country.
Forest Products Industry and Aboriginals
The forest products industry is one of Canada's largest employers of Aboriginal people in Canada. About 80% of Aboriginal people live in or near forested areas and many communities have a long history of involvement in the forest industry.
Many Aboriginal firms are involved in harvesting, small sawmill operations, silviculture and tree seed farming. There are an estimated 1,700 Aboriginal firms doing work with the forest products industry. They typically employ 10–30 people and can earn revenues of more than $1 million/yr.
The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit of Aboriginal people, and their long history of involvement in the industry. FPAC has launched a business leadership award based on business leadership skills, environmental and safety performance, and community involvement. Here are the five winners so far:
In 2014, in partnership with the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB), the award was given to Stuwix Resources, a tenure holder and forest management company owned by eight First Nations in British Columbia
In 2013 FPAC and CCAB presented the award to the Opiticwan Sawmill in Quebec, a joint venture between the Atikamekw Council of Obedjiwan Quebec and Resolute Forest Products.
In 2012 this award went to Duz Cho Logging of McLeod Lake, BC. Duz Cho employs over 130 people and has been in business for over 24 years.
In 2011 Tsi Del Del of Chilano Forks, BC won the award. Led by Chief Percy Guichon, the company has been in business for 20 years, employing 30 people who are mainly Aboriginal.
In 2009, Grace Esquega won the inaugural award for her company Niigaani Enterprises of Gull Bay, Ontario. Niigaani employed First Nations people from Gull Bay.
FPAC also has a Skills Award for Aboriginal Youth. It is aimed at Aboriginals from 18 to 30 who are enrolled in an apprenticeship program, college or university and are committed to a career in the revitalized forest sector. Here are the three winners so far:
Shownoo Blackbird-Williams of the Walpole Island First Nation who is attending the First Nations Forestry Technician Program at the Anishinabek Education Institute in Ontario
Shayna Mason, a member of the Gitxaala Nation in BC is a student in the forester program at the University of Alberta.
Baillie Redfern, a Metis from Ontario is a M.Sc. student at the University of British Columbia conducting research on future forest products using genome science.
For its members FPAC has also produced an HR handbook including best practices in recruiting and retaining Aboriginal workers. FPAC is also in the midst of seeking certification under the CCAB Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program for third-party verification of FPAC's positive Aboriginal relations. The Association will be making Aboriginal outreach and recruitment a major focus for 2015.
Photo: [L-R] David Lindsay, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) presents the third annual Youth Skills Award for Aboriginal Youth to Shownoo Blackbird-Williams on December 10. Photo courtesy of FPAC.