Solar course opens career paths for Indigenous youth

Woman installing solar panel

In October 2022, Relay Education delivered an Introduction to Solar Installation course for eight youth from across Treaty 4 Nations in Saskatchewan. This course is part of the skills training program Relay offers young people interested in careers in the green economy.

Ryan Bitternose, one of the course participants, had recently left his job and the program gave him an introduction to a career in solar.

“It was the hands-on job experience that kind of detoured my career path from what I was wanting to do. It’s something out of my comfort zone, but it’s a new learning experience that I want to take.

“I knew nothing about [solar power] but after getting this experience it’s something I can see myself doing,” said Ryan. Ryan Bitternose is 29 years old and lives on Pasqua First Nation, in southern Saskatchewan.

Eight Indigenous youth from Treaty 4 Nations in Saskatchewan completed a four-week Introduction to Solar Installation course in Lethbridge, Alberta. Treaty Education Alliance reached out to Relay about running a Solar Program for community members.

“Relay Education was proud to partner with Treaty Education Alliance to offer this multi-week training program. This hands-on solar training program offers Indigenous youth an intensive educational experience to explore and learn about the solar industry. In four weeks, they completed safety and training certificates, job skills training and hands-on solar installation experience to be able to help them pursue a career in solar installation.” Shared Rebecca Swanson, Operations Director at Relay Education.

Relay worked alongside Treaty Education Alliance to coordinate youth, between the ages of 18 to 30 years, to take part in the course at Lethbridge College which was organized by LC Extension.

Ryan Mennie, the Project Facilitator at LC Extension, said the course lets participants explore how a career in solar may fit their life goals.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn if it’s a career path that they want to go on. We’re excited for the learners that took this program to have this on their resume. To be able to say they have skills to offer to a solar company,” said Mennie.

Ryan Bitternose is returning to school in December to complete a program in addictions and community health, but after he sees himself pursuing a career in solar.

He said, “I do want to make my way back out to Alberta, because with the certificates and everything that Relay Education offered, there are job opportunities in Alberta. I just need to get out there.”

The skills training program has occurred since 2014 and has been offered through multi-week courses in Ontario and Alberta. This program addresses specific barriers to employment that youth encounter and specifically Indigenous youth. The courses are co-designed to address individual needs of communities and participants.

This program was funded in part by Scotiabank, TD Bank Group, Electricity Human Resources Council and the Chawkers Foundation.