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Manitoba sees need for more First Nations engineers

The engineering association in Manitoba has launched a program to attract more First Nations students into the prof...


The engineering association in Manitoba has launched a program to attract more First Nations students into the profession.
William Boyce, the manager of operations at the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba (APEGM), says the goal of the Aboriginal Professional Initiative is to encourage aboriginal students to take post-secondary education with an emphasis on engineering and science.
In 10 or 15 years aboriginal people will make up 24 per cent of the population. The association wants to see that proportion of First Nations people reflected in the profession.
Many engineers who live in the northern areas of the province have expressed interesting in helping the program, which would involve them in visiting First Nations communities and making presentations in schools to arouse student interest. The chair of the APEGM committee, Mr. Randy Herrmann, P.Eng., is also the Director of the Engineering Access Program (ENGAP) at the University of Manitoba, which is a support program for students of aboriginal descent.
The APEGM group has been meeting with members of Women in Engineering and Science (WISE) to learn from their expertise and possibly to collaborate. WISE members have being travelling to northern communities since 1990 encouraging female students to become engineers and scientists.
It is sometimes difficult for young people on First Nations to make the break from their small communities in the north to attend large urban universities. Boyce points out that they face the stress of moving from a reserve of, say, 2,700 people to a campus occupied by 27,000 people. To ease the transition, Boyce says, the University of Manitoba may collaborate with the recently established aboriginal post-secondary institution, the University College of the North, which has two main campuses in The Pas and Thompson. The idea is that engineering students could do the first year of studies in The Pas or Thompson and then continue the rest of their degrees in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba.