A fledgling youth development program will fly again this summer.
The Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) ran its first summer of skills training and personal growth initiatives in 2018.
The program called together more than 20 Indigenous youth from more than 16 First Nations from around the region.
They received six weeks of training in the natural resource professions. It was the western launch of a parent program already well underway in Ontario.
On Thursday, LNG Canada announced that it was signing on to be a major sponsor ensuring three more years of OYEP West, after being one of the happy inaugural partners this past summer.
"OYEP has outstanding programming and provides significant opportunities to Indigenous youth," said Susannah Pierce, director of external relations for LNG Canada. "We saw the benefits OYEP West provided to the 2018 participants, and it was an easy decision to continue our support."
Prince George became home base to the OYEP camp due to the vision of Derek Orr, business development manager at Carrier Lumber and a former elected chief of the McLeod Lake First Nation.
He knew firsthand that local companies were in need of skilled and motivated employees, and that Aboriginal youth were in need of outreach to draw them into the many professions offered in the industrial sector.
He found OYEP and inquired about replicating it here in northern B.C.
"OYEP has a structured environment that provides Indigenous youth a chance to interact with fellow peers, gain skills and develop their self-confidence," said Orr.
"LNG Canada's decision to fund OYEP for the next three years goes to show, once again, how resource development in B.C. can provide meaningful opportunities for communities. We are very appreciative of LNG Canada's commitment to our youth."
Youth in the program are immersed in a resource-based work culture, including safety training, time management, remote and rotational work schedules, and work-life balance.
OYEP includes a combination of core in-camp training, personal development planning, natural resource-based curriculum, job-shadow experiences and employer-employee connections. Participants build confidence, establish networks, learn how to work independently and as a group, and develop a keen understanding of workplace expectations. The program prepares youth for a successful transition to employment and post secondary education.
"It was an amazing experience for us and we learned a lot of valuable skills and lessons through the program. I think that everyone should have a chance at experiencing something like the OYEP camp," said Karrissa Brown of the Ts'il Kaz Koh First Nation in Burns Lake.
Sarah Dixon of the Esk'etemc First Nation said "OYEP 2018 was such an amazing six weeks and I learned so many new skills and made lifelong friendships and great memories that will last a lifetime."
Tyson Beaulieu of the West Moberly Lake First Nation also took part in the first camp. He said "OYEP was a positive experience.
"I got to know a lot of new people and everything we did was so fun.
"Getting to drum and sing made me feel really good about myself as well. All of the training - fire fighting, first-aid, lake water level 1, chainsaw safety - will help me in my future career because I now have these tickets and will be able to use these skills."
The three-year commitment made by LNG Canada is not the only sponsorship required to operate the camp, but it provides the needed foundation for organizers to venture into those additional years of operation.
They have been doing so in Ontario for the past 20 years.
Orr will be continuing to source new partnerships to ensure OYEP prepares young Aboriginal lives and creates inroads for natural resource companies far into the future right here in their own region.