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An Education 'Career Ladder'

Career laddering in the First Nations Partnership Programs means that students can "step off" the program of study after one or two years with the credentials needed to pursue employment in a wide range of human resource fields. If they choose, they can "step on" again at a later date to continue third- and fourth-year studies, leading to a degree in Child and Youth Care.

Diploma program (2 years)

  • 20 courses, including practica

  • five terms of fulltime study

  • four 'strands' or themes

    • ECCE/CYC (Early Childhood Care and Education / Child and Youth Care)
    • Communications
    • Child and Youth Development
    • Practica


In each of the training programs, instructors are recruited by the First Nations partners, who contract directly with them. Instructors are appointed by the university. Perhaps the ideal situation would be that all course instructors are also members of the partnering First Nations cultural community, but that is not always possible. In four of the seven partnerships to date, there was at least one aboriginal course instructor; two programs were able to hire instructors from within their communities; and Mount Currie First Nation had the exceptional capacity to recruit instructors from their own community exclusively. Instructors from outside the partnering First Nations need to orient themselves both to the program and to the community upon arrival.

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A special admissions procedure using flexible prior learning criteria was arranged at the university to enable students to be registered as a cohort - ranging from 10 to 22 students - for each training program. Across the eight partnerships, students have been between 21 and 50 years of age. All of the First Nations communities conducted their own recruiting, screening and preparatory programs for students, based on locally established criteria. Common student selection criteria included:

  • academic readiness --> likelihood of success
  • personal wellness
  • known to have supportive relationships with children through work and/or family
  • strong interest in Early Childhood Care and Development as a career

Program costs and benefits

Average costs per student ranged from $4,000 to $5,000 per term. Costs varied considerably across program due to geography, availability of community resource people, and the extent to which students had to commute to classes or to practicum sites. In one program in northern British Columbia, where students relocated from six remote villages to a central community, the living allowance component was substantially higher, approximating the support costs for students who move away from home to attend universities and colleges in western Canada.

In each partnership, at least 80% of the costs of the program remained within the community. The communities delivered the program in their own facilities, provided their own administrative and support services, and contracted with instructors who were either community members or were recruited to the community for the duration of the program.

The long-term benefits of offering a training program that takes the strengths, knowledge, and skills of individuals, so that they begin to feel good about themselves, is worth the dollar value.

Marie McCallum, Administrator, Meadow Lake Tribal Council

The program evaluation underscored the cost benefits of the partnership program to the community as a whole, contrasting this investment in education and training with other university programs that benefit students themselves but have little or no impact on other community members. Community participants have pointed to the unprecedented positive educational outcomes and vocational outcomes, and the effects of relevant training to community development.

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