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New skills program established for Hay River young people
Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre offers personal and professional management training for teens

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Monday, August 24, 2015

The Hay River Chamber of Commerce is excited a new program will begin next month at Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre to help get young people prepared for the workforce.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yvonne Hopkins: Instructor designed program to prepare youth for workforce.

"This is just making sure they're ready to succeed," president Joseph Melanson told News/North. "We don't want to set them up for failure."

The Young Eagles Work Readiness Program is targeted at youth aged 15 to 25 years old and will be offered from Sept. 8 to March 18.

The program has been created by Yvonne Hopkins, the urban partnership co-ordinator at the friendship centre, who will also be the instructor.

"I'm very excited about it," she said. "I like working with youth, especially youth that would like a little guidance."

The program is broken into three sections for a total of 121 days.

The first section deals with life skills.

"The life skills are mostly about management," Hopkins explained. "You've got time management, money management, stress management and anger management, emotional intelligence, ethics, critical thinking, wellness plan and a little bit on communication. They're also going to have two days of first aid and some self-care or physical fitness. That's just the first 17 days."

The next two sections cover literacy and work readiness. That includes a wide variety of topics, such as math, literacy, keyboarding, communication, food safety, driver education, mock interviews, teamwork and much more.

"It's heavy on math, this program, because that's usually the weakest point for a lot of youth, especially if they're going to go into trades," said Hopkins.

The program will also focus on developing a work ethic.

"Some people have a very difficult time getting a job and then they blow it in a short period of time," Hopkins said. "So this course is about getting a job and keeping it."

She said after seven months, the participants would know what employers are looking for when they're hiring, and that participants would know about acceptable work habits and following lines of authority.

The program is open to aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth, but currently the friendship centre has only obtained training allowances of about $1,000 a month for aboriginal participants.

While Hopkins will be instructing most of the program, there will also be a dozen or so guest speakers for things like first aid and food safety.

Hopkins, who is a member of the Lil'wat Nation near Whistler, B.C., has developed a number of pre-employment programs in the past, including for women in Vancouver and street people in that city's Downtown Eastside.

She said those programs were life-changing for some participants, noting she had students in Vancouver who were working the streets, but then went on to study in master's and doctoral programs.

In addition, she worked as an adult educator on the Hay River Reserve.

She was hired in April to develop and deliver the new program at Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre.

Audrey Berens, the executive director of the friendship centre, believes the new program is a good opportunity for young people.

"This is one way to guarantee that we do guide our kids, so to speak, so that they can be strong leaders," said Berens.

Hopkins is hoping to get 10 participants for the program.

"I'll be happy with eight, but if I get 10 that would be awesome," she said. "Because I found in the past that the programs that I developed and worked with were very successful and they made a difference in people's lives. That's why I'm hoping that there'll be some interest."

- with files from Karen K. Ho

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