The first day of instruction for the Bridge Watch Program on location at Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River, N.L., took place last month.
The training is an initiative of the Miawpukek First Nation and the Marine Institute, in collaboration with Mi’kmaq Alsumk Mowimsikik Koqoey Association and Training and Economic Development.
All student funding is through Skills and Participant Funding with Employment and Social Development Canada.
The seven-month program provides 12 students with a combination of theoretical and practical experience through a combination of classroom lectures, hands-on seamanship skills and three weeks of safety training at the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre in Fox Trap, N.L.
Students will also complete a minimum of 60 days of onboard training at sea.
“Having this program offered in the community and being accepted, to me, is like winning the lotto.”
Upon completion, students are awarded technical certificates. Students can then complete Transport Canada’s Bridge Watch Rating exam to become eligible for employment opportunities in the marine industry.
The partnership for the program was proposed to the Marine Institute by Miawpukek First Nation last year. Community engagement sessions began in January 2023 to introduce the opportunity and gauge participant interest.
The sessions resulted in the successful recruitment of 12 band and community members living in Conne River.
‘A new adventure’
Work-term practical placements on ships are being organized by Miawpukek First Nation, using its network of trusted partners within the marine industry to provide further opportunities for hands-on experience for students.
“The program is amazing, and the instructor is wonderful,” said student Denise Kendell. “We’re learning a lot, and everyone is very excited. This is a new adventure for me. Having this program offered in the community and being accepted, to me, is like winning the lotto.”
With instruction taking place in the Conne River Community Centre, band and community members attending the program can remain close to home.
“This career can take me to different parts of the world.”
Graduates can look forward to careers that take them from Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond — while having the ability to live in Conne River.
“This career can take me to different parts of the world and that’s exciting for me,” said student Glenn Lilly, who previously worked as a fishing guard.
“The Bridge Watch Program underway at Miawpukek will further add to our growing resource pool of Mi’kmaw seafarers,” said Chief Misel Joe, Miawpukek First Nation. “The opportunities Miawpukek First Nation has created with our industry partners will see the graduates of the program realizing exciting careers in the marine industry. This is exciting times for the Miawpukek First Nation, our partners and community members.”
Fabian Lambert, assistant head of the School of Maritime Studies, and Kevin Anderson, head of the School of Fisheries, visited Conne River to meet with students and members of the band and community to celebrate the start of the program.
“This is an industry that is in very high demand and offers students the chance for a variety of employment opportunities in multiple industry sectors,” said Mr. Lambert. “Graduates will have the opportunity to pursue a fulfilling career in a very dynamic industry, while always remaining close to home.”