Last month, the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI) and the First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) launched a program that aims to recruit and place Indigenous people and women into trade positions in Ontario’s nuclear sector.
Both groups are among those that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and so programs that endeavor to provide opportunities for them will not only benefit individual families and communities, but also accelerate Ontario’s economic recovery.
I had a chance to sit down with Terri-Lynn Woods, the new Manager of Indigenous Relations at OCNI. During the interview, she shared her personal experience being a young Indigenous woman in the nuclear industry and how projects like these impact both Indigenous communities and the energy sector.
Watch the highlights of our conversation and read on for the full interview, below.
SH: What do projects like these do for the Indigenous community and what has the reaction been so far?
TW: Projects like these can offer opportunities for Indigenous people to explore and obtain experience in skilled trades positions, as well as for communities to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with industry suppliers, which will open doors for business collaborations.
We’ve had an incredible amount of support and outreach from communities, industry partners, organizations, and not just within the local communities, but across Ontario.
So we anticipate that we’re going to have a lot of people who are interested in participating in the program.
SH: What important role does the Indigenous community play in the energy sector?
TW: Indigenous communities offer traditional knowledge-based approaches to sustainable environmental recovery.
And by considering how our actions today impact future generations, we can develop more sustainable strategies that will honor and protect the natural environment.
SH: What does clean energy mean to the Indigenous community?
TW: So for remote communities, it means that diesel power generators can be replaced with clean energy alternatives. This will reduce environmental impacts and preserve natural resources.
SH: Where would you like to see the industry in 10 years?
TW: I’d like to see a diverse and inclusive workforce, strong relationships and partners with the Indigenous communities and expansion of industry projects like the life-saving medical isotopes production system and the production of green hydrogen with nuclear electricity.
SH: What attracted you to the nuclear industry?
TW: I wanted a fulfilling career that offered me opportunities for continuous development and growth while being able to put down roots in the community that I grew up in.
Nuclear has provided me with many opportunities to explore and try out multiple career paths and has always supported career growth through training opportunities. It’s provided me with opportunities to travel and work across Canada and internationally.
SH: What barriers do young Indigenous people face that prevent them from entering careers in the energy industry and how can we better support them?
TW: One barrier is the lack of employment opportunities available to provide them with job experience required to qualify them for new positions in the nuclear sector.
When companies offer training and job experiences through high school co-op positions, summer student placements, internships, apprenticeships, participation in government funded projects and programs that support Indigenous people,
you provide these individuals with valuable knowledge and experience to assist them in meeting the acceptance requirements for positions in the industry.
SH: What advice would you give to young Indigenous people who are interested in pursuing a career in nuclear?
TW: I would tell them do it! Honestly, I never thought I would find a career that is so rewarding and that I’m passionate about. There are so many programs out there to support them. The sky’s the limit.
Find opportunities to build the skills and experience needed for positions that they want to learn about and participate in community programs and training that’s available.
Network and connect with other in the industry. If possible, find someone to mentor from. There are so many resources available within the community to help achieve career goals.
Many Indigenous communities have a vested interest in the energy sector as a means to achieve economic prosperity and to ensure sustainable recovery of the natural environment.
Industry needs to be forward looking to ensure that there aren’t large gaps between the number of roles needed to be filled in skilled trades and the number of people qualified to fill these roles.
Government plays a role in providing opportunities and resources to those who need access to training in order to qualify for roles in the energy sector.
Susie Ho is the Senior Advisor at NII's Bruce Power Centre for Next Generation Nuclear.