Learners become teachers in Sandy Bay First Nation

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Assiniboine Student prepares meat in class

Inside of three years, more than 100 individuals have graduated from Assiniboine Community College’s Pork Processing program in Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation. The unique partnership between Sandy Bay and Assiniboine has even seen some graduates return to the program as faculty members.

The intensive 12-week program covers essential skills, safety, and pork processing knowledge. Graduates are recognized with a Pork Processing certificate, prepared to work with food processing organizations. One major employer, Hylife Foods, operates a pork processing plant in Neepawa an hour away from the community. Many graduates have gone on to

work at Hylife, which has prompted the company to provide a shuttle service to and from Sandy Bay for employees.

Delivering the program in Sandy Bay has allowed Assiniboine to provide customized training for students who previously may not have been able to access this program due to financial or geographical obstacles.

Funding for the program facilities in Sandy Bay was provided in large part by Service Canada in relation to their Women in Trade funding opportunities.

“One of the intentions of this program was to encourage women to become more involved in the trades industry,” said Chief Lance Roulette of Sandy Bay First Nation. “It has had a large positive impact on the community; students are attaining success and finding jobs.”

Some students have been so successful that they’ve come full circle and are now faculty members within the program.

Adrienne Mousseau was a graduate from the program’s first cohort of students. A top student, Mousseau has since returned to the program as an instructor. Alongside assistant instructor Willie Spencer, another graduate of the program, the two have just celebrated their first cohort of students graduate this past fall.

An incredible evolution of the program in such a short time, with two community members now at the heart of delivering the program to others.

“It’s a really rewarding job, it’s something that didn’t think I’d ever be able to do,” said Adrienne. “I can give back to the community, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

For Adrienne, seeing graduates succeeding in both large and small companies across Manitoba is rewarding. She sees the value the program had in her own life and how it impacted her future.

“I’m grateful that I have this job, otherwise who knows where I would be,” she added.

“We always strive to have local students provide training to our membership where possible because it allows the trust to be at the forefront, Adrienne being one of those successful students,” said Chief Roulette.

The number of participants has grown with each graduating cohort. The 2019 graduating class included students from multiple First Nations communities—a first for the program.

“The program has also expanded out to where we’re [Sandy Bay] providing services to other First Nations, such as Long Plain, Ebb and Flow, as well as there have been expressions of interest other First Nations reserves,” said Chief Roulette.

Building upon the success of the Pork Processing program in Sandy Bay, Assiniboine has recently constructed a $1.4 million Food Processing Centre at its Victoria Avenue East campus in Brandon. That project was generously supported with a combined $1.165 million from the Government of Canada, Province of Manitoba, Maple Leaf Foods, HyLife Foods, Manitoba Pork, UFCW Local 832, the Brandon Hog and Livestock Show.

Currently underway in the facility is a new 11-month certificate program in Food Processing – Animal Proteins. Students in the program are prepared for front-line careers in food processing by learning about nutrition, safety, tools, cutting, curing, and smoking various types of animal