By Noah Cote

In September of 2017, Red River College provided skilled trades training in Lake Manitoba First Nation, including a carpentry apprenticeship program to help bring new infrastructure building and working opportunities to students in the community.

Three months later, eleven students completed it — students like 21-year-old Savannah McLean, who joined the program after a push from a family member.

Savannah Mclean shares a smile while she works on an in-class activity as a part of the Lake Manitoba First Nation carpentry program taught by Red River College./SUPPLIED

“There was a post about it on Facebook, that’s how I found out about it,” says McLean. “My dad, he works on houses himself, and he told me to go for it.”

McLean completed the 12-week carpentry program in December.

“One of the councillors for the reserve posted it, I thought it was pretty cool,” says McLean. “We worked with hand-tools, we built joints and canoe racks.”

McLean is happy to help contribute to the education of children in the community by working in carpentry.

“It was fun,” says McLean, “We built bookshelves for the local elementary school.”

The program was created after a need for level one carpentry training was expressed by community leaders. It was provided by RRC in partnership with Manitoba Apprenticeship to get students the skills they needed to help bolster local infrastructure.

“Any community needs people who can fix things when they’re broken,” says Dave McCutcheon. “Fortunately, we were in the right position at the right time, with the right relationships to make it happen.”

As Red River College’s acting chair of Construction Trades, School of Construction and Engineering Technologies, McCutcheon helped design the program and personally travelled to Lake Manitoba First Nations community to help set up the classrooms.

“I just wanted to check up on how things were going,” says McCutcheon. “We had a meeting with community leaders, we made sure the classrooms were set up in appropriate facilities, made sure equipment was set up and could be operated safely.”

McCutcheon says that though traditional campuses have their benefits, helping people in northern communities operate locally is a considered factor for the program, and he will continue to take inquiries from Manitoban communities with an interest in training.

“Community delivered training is not the answer to everything, sometimes you need a full campus,” says McCutcheon. “But It’s an excellent way of keeping people within their community, and allowing them to have their family and support group as their surroundings.”