Thirty-two brand-new homes stand in Indigenous communities today thanks to more than 130 apprentices and students that took part in the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission’s (SATCC) tiny homes project.
“This allowed us to take the job site and make it the classroom,” says Jayson Noel, the program manager and business development community partner at Your Choice Homes, a partner and contractor for some of the builds during the project.
The project, launched by the SATCC in 2021 with funding from the Government of Saskatchewan, aimed to give Indigenous apprentices experience in the skilled trades through hands-on learning, while bringing new housing opportunities to Indigenous communities. Apprentices and students worked alongside an experienced journeyperson, like the ones from Your Choice Homes, to build a tiny home in their community.
“These youth are putting on their toolbelt and their community watches them out there at the job site every day,” says Noel. “This is one of their first job experiences and they’re taking it seriously.”
The SATCC invited Indigenous stakeholders such as economic development authorities, housing agencies, Indigenous communities and employers to apply for funding for the building of tiny houses or similar single unit dwellings in Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. Applications were accepted in 2021 with the hope of building at least 10 tiny homes by mid-2022.
By the end of the project, 32 tiny homes had been built in 22 Indigenous communities.
The project was embraced by communities, partners, and participants with all involved seeing the positive benefits. Communities welcomed the new housing and skills training opportunities. Students and apprentices learned valuable skills in carpentry, electrical, and plumbing and experienced work in the skilled trades.
“The community is so encouraging towards these youth. For these young people to be a part of the construction of their community, you can see the pride of the community and the pride of the parents watching their kids take part,” says Noel.
Thirty-five apprentices contributed to the work on the tiny homes along with 98 secondary students. Some participants continued their journey in the skilled trades following the project and indentured as apprentices, with apprentices continuing to be signed up as residual project work finishes.
As of June 2022, Indigenous apprentices made up 18 per cent of Saskatchewan’s apprenticeship population. According to Statistics Canada data from the 2021 Census, 17 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population self-identifies as Indigenous.
Chris Stubbs, director of innovation and inclusion at the SATCC, says the commission continues to pursue opportunities working with Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan.
“We want to ensure we’re facilitating a diverse, inclusive apprenticeship system,” said Stubbs “Projects like the tiny homes continue this work – strengthening relationships, providing training opportunities and helping meet the needs of the communities.”
Each year, the SATCC oversees and administers the Indigenous Apprenticeship Initiative (IAI) program, which funds initiatives that aim to increase Indigenous people’s awareness of, and participation in, apprenticeship training and the designated trades. Past projects have included apprenticeship and upgrading training, job coaching and mentoring, and courses aimed at high school students.
Looking forward, the SATCC will participate in the introduction of an innovative Indigenous Welder training program on Ochapowace Nation. The program will offer pre-employment training with the goal of training and indenturing welder apprentices.
“The tiny homes showed the impact that a project like this can have on young people, providing them with experience in the trades and the tools to succeed in their future careers,” said Stuffs. “We’re excited to continue work like this.”