January 2022 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


of Trust funds invested in projects since 2005


projects approved since 2005

All photos: Pierre Johne/Michael Schneider

In 2021, four Takla First Nation youth began participating in an Indigenous guide outfitting apprenticeship program developed by Michael Schneider, owner of Driftwood Valley Outfitters, in consultation with Takla Nation with financial support from Northern Development. While the COVID-19 pandemic changed how the program was delivered, Schneider was able to adapt and still provide a quality learning experience.

“We had lots of plans for people to come and things to be taught, but that did not happen,” explained Schneider. “We had to adjust and postpone some of the things. On the flip side, that has given us the ability to spend a lot of one-on-one time with the kids. They got to know us more, without interference from tourists or clients. I think we have a positive from that because it provided us with a really good base. Once clients come, the students know more about what to expect and what is expected of them.”

This unique learning opportunity provides students with face-to-face teaching time with Takla Nation elders and knowledge keepers. Participants also receive the option to earn industry certifications, including first aid, assistant hunting guide certification, pleasure craft operator card, Foodsafe, Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education (CORE) and Possession and Acquisition License (PAL).

“I think the biggest change about myself is my attitude and the respect I have with other people,” said Desmond West, student. “I improved on learning how to trap, snare and being more active. I really like being out in the bush more.”

Takla Nation has purchased a guide certificate within their traditional territory and are interested in others on their territory as a future revenue stream. Once the students have graduated through the apprenticeship program, Takla Nation will have increased internal capacity to operate a guiding business while providing employment for members.

“There are so many different careers that branch off from the outfitting business that you could enter into if you wanted to,” said Schneider. “This has so much potential to be so many different things. It’s good for the kids to be out here trapping.”

The value of guide outfitting in B.C.’s tourism industry is considerable – it creates over 2,500 jobs and contributes a gross domestic product (GDP) of $192 million. More than 30 First Nations own guide territories in the province, but some need trained community members to join the business to help the outfitter to reach their full potential.

The apprenticeship program will benefit Takla Nation by providing new revenue opportunities and creating quality jobs for its members that allow them to incorporate their Indigenous knowledge and experience into the outfitting business. If the students choose not to participate in guide outfitting after high school graduation, the skills they learned and certificates they earned will be transferrable to an array of other industries.

“The program has done a lot for me,” said Pierre Charlie, student. “We get to do a bunch of stuff in the program, now I love winter. We are doing a lot of fun stuff, we are trapping, we are spending time together and trying to make a change.”

In February 2020, Houston Link to Learning (HLL) celebrated the complete transformation of their kitchen into a spacious commercial kitchen capable of comfortably welcoming community members for a variety of food-oriented programming. Northern Development contributed to this renovation with a $30,000 grant through its former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program.

“However, due to COVID-19 the kitchen’s usage has not been as planned,” said Marian Ells, manager, HLL. “Final completion was in February 2020 and of course we had to close to groups in March 2020. By April, we were noticing that most other locations that community members went to for food were also closed. This created a real crisis situation for some community members who struggle with food security issues.”

In response to this realization, HLL adapted and started a Recipe Bag program with the assistance of some emergency funding. Instead of cooking together, HLL provided families with bags containing a recipe, ingredients and resources to be taken home and cooked there. In July, they started Food Kitchen, a program where community members could receive a free lunch twice a week.

“Food Kitchen began with us providing around 30 meals a week,” explained Ells. “Since then, the program has grown and grown. We now serve approximately 150 meals a week and deliver 24 meals a week to vulnerable seniors in the community who are unable to collect food. For our Christmas lunch this year we served 270 meals, 67 of them delivered to seniors. While we’re not using the new kitchen in the way we expected, the new equipment and space has been invaluable in this adapted way of preparing so many meals on a weekly basis.”

Before the pandemic forced them to alter their program delivery method, HLL supported the community of Houston for 32 years by offering a variety of programming, including food skills for families, take and bake Tuesdays, resume writing, computer literacy, community garden and much more. Their policy is to provide food at every program as they recognize that many of their learners are low-income and low-literacy and that they cannot focus on learning when they are hungry.

For the past decade, Houston has welcomed a significant number of families and older single adults to the community who are attracted by low-cost rental housing. HLL learned that many of these people arrive with multiple barriers, including low income, low literacy, food security challenges, no reliable transportation and no local support network. HLL programing includes life skills which address some of these challenges and helps develop basic literacy skills, which can start people on the path to long-term employment.

“Cooking is a great way to teach literacy skills, life skills and employability skills while in the kitchen,” wrote Mike McDiarmid, superintendent, School District No. 54 – Bulkley Valley in a 2019 letter of support for the project. “The programs HLL will be able to provide will remove barriers and address food security issues. All of these opportunities will enable our parents to be more successful in their lives and improve the life chances of their children.”

At the time of the grant application, the unemployment rate in Houston was high but employers were struggling to fill vacant positions. HLL identified this was because many of those who were unemployed did not have the skills required to fill entry level positions. By offering relevant programs and services to the community, HLL supports the population and local businesses.

Funding for this project was disbursed through the Trust’s former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities grant program. In September 2020, new community funding programs were launched. Through the new suite of programs, this same project would be eligible for up to $30,000 through the Community Places funding program.

Photo: Northern Development

In May 2020, Precision Guide Machinery and Repair Limited (Precision) applied to Northern Development’s Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate program to assist with the costs of completing training for their staff. Precision’s management decided to take advantage of time during the economic slow-down to invest in their staff and increase positive outcomes and efficiencies for both the employees and the business.

With the economic environment and new cultural realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Precision had noticed a drop in employee morale. Management wanted to show their team that they were invested in supporting their personal well-being and long-term growth in the company. The training provided staff with the tools to bolster their personal optimism and resiliency.

The staff participated in five virtual training modules, which included topical sessions on optimism and resiliency, leadership and teamwork, change management and continuous improvement and high-performance sales. In addition to the training, each participant completed a personal development plan which they discussed with management.

Once the training sessions were finished, management received a lot of positive feedback from staff about the value of the knowledge provided from the consultant. The employees were enthusiastic about what they learned and indicated that they looked forward to using the learnings during their time at work and outside of work.

Precision expects that this investment in skill development will have a significant positive impact on their operating costs – through employee retention, decreased re-work rates and increased productivity. Beyond these quantitative results, they anticipate that staff morale will also increase, leading to a positive and more enjoyable atmosphere for all those in the workplace.

Precision received a rebate for 85 per cent of the cost of these training sessions through the SBR program. Northern Development offers this funding program to support businesses impacted by various industry and regional economic conditions, including downturns, natural disasters and other business continuity events.

All photos: VLS

Having year-round access to a reliable source of fresh, leafy green vegetables has long been a challenge for Robson Valley residents. To help improve food security in the area, the Valemount Learning Society (VLS) decided to purchase and operate a growing container, known as Village Greens. This investment allows them to grow leafy vegetables, using the aquaponic growing method, in a controlled environment.

“Investing in a growing container provides meaningful opportunities for our community and society members,” said Korie Marshall, president, VLS. “Most importantly, we are addressing food security challenges and helping nourish our community.”

To assist with the costs of this investment, VLS successfully applied for a $166,328 grant from Northern Development’s former Economic Diversification Infrastructure funding program. Funding was approved in July 2020, as food supply chains were facing uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once produce was ready to be harvested and sold in 2021, VLS provided their locally grown goods to the community through sales at the Farmers’ Market and through subscriptions. Looking ahead, VLS plans to focus on selling their greens to restaurants during the summer months, when most residents either grow their own produce or buy it at the Farmers’ Market. When business seasonally slows for restaurants during the winter, VLS will provide their herbs and vegetables to residents, who cannot grow their own produce during the snowy months.

“Through Village Greens, we are providing opportunities and creating a couple of new employment positions that did not previously exist,” said Marshall. “In addition, revenue earned from vegetable sales will allow VLS to continue to provide and expand services to our community. We are eager to see how this project will continue to grow, improve local food security and increase our financial capacity.”

VLS is working on ideas to grow additional learning and educational opportunities with Village Greens, including a potential collaboration with a local farm that is developing its own tourism and education plan.