The Centre for Shellfish Research (CSR) at Vancouver Island University is using science to inspire First Nations youth to consider jobs in aquaculture.
Building on the success of last year’s pilot program, the CSR hosted its second summer Future Leaders On the Water (FLOW) program for youth at Moorecroft camp in Nanoose Bay recently.
“The objective is to bring together intergenerational groups of youth and adult mentors from First Nation communities around the province,” explained Stephanie Richards of the CSR.
“We want to help First Nations youth ages 13 to 18 to develop leadership skills and excite them about marine science. The five-day program re-connects them with the ocean and their history by combining activities related to marine biology, ecology, shellfish aquaculture and traditional knowledge.”
This year’s program was huge success, Richards said. “We had 29 participants, including youth, student-mentors and elders from nine Vancouver Island First Nations communities, participating in leadership workshops, traditional knowledge and activities, such as pit cooking and native crafts; chemistry labs, marine biology and botany field trips and tours to Milner Gardens, the CSR’s Deep Bay field site and Vancouver Island University.”
Participants learned transferable skills through experiential learning, interactive team building and effective communication.
FLOW is a spin-off of the CSR’s First Nations Shellfish Training Program. “We’re working with First Nations adults to start new aquaculture businesses in their communities,” explained Richards, “but once these businesses start up, they need workers.
“There’s concern about the number of young people leaving First Nations communities, or not finishing high school because there is no work for them. Communities working with the CSR expressed the wish that we develop a youth training program showing them there are exciting job opportunities available to them.
“FLOW is a perfect way to give the youth a taste of aquaculture and hopefully feed their interest into looking at other vocational or academic programs at VIU, and preparing them to return to work in their home communities. It’s about giving hope for the future.”
“This program represents one of the many exciting educational programming activities that we expect to be able to offer when the Deep Bay Field Station opens in the summer of 2010,” added Brian Kingzett, CSR Deep Bay Field Station Manager.
The 2009 FLOW program was jointly funded by BC Hydro, the Vancouver Island University Foundation, the Hamber Foundation and the Centre for Shellfish Research. Richards said the CSR and VIU gratefully acknowledge the generous support of sponsors “because we couldn’t offer this program without their assistance.”
Richards hope to expand the program next year to include youth from the north and central coast.
For further information about FLOW or VIU’s Centre for Shellfish Research, contact Richards at 250-740-6398.