Sault MPP Ross Romano announced more than $1.2 million in provincial funding for Indigenous student training in the information technology sector at Sault College Thursday.
The funding will go to PLATO Testing for Indigenous students, to be taught at Sault College.
PLATO (Professional Aboriginal Testing Organization), established in New Brunswick in 2015, aims to bring meaningful employment opportunities to Indigenous people in the IT field, the organization currently expanding its operations across Canada.
“We will be creating 57 jobs right here in our community (through PLATO) to ensure employment opportunities for Indigenous people in this area. This project will fill talent shortages in the IT labour market and is an example of how we are trying to diversify our local economy and bring prosperity to Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding communities,” Romano said.
“We’ve been working with PLATO for a while with how we want be involved in the local economy...this is really great news,” said Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers, speaking to SooToday.
“Of course, we want to see even more of our people involved in the information technology sector and we do have the qualified people, we have very highly educated people within our communities, not only Batchewana but regionally. With a lot of First Nations there is an untapped human resource which I believe has huge opportunity for companies to invest in, so that we can really generate the wealth we know this region is capable of.”
“We really appreciate the diversification of the region’s economy and we’ve always had an expectation that we would benefit, and it’s partnerships like this, our partnerships with Sault College, Algoma University, the City of Sault Ste. Marie, the EDC, the Innovation Centre, which are really trying to catapult our people into the 21st century by endorsing, supporting and promoting the evolution of the diversified economy...it’s an exciting time for all of us and I’m excited about the people who are going to be able to access these great paying jobs, career jobs with benefits and good salaries, right here at home,” Sayers said.
“It’s a condensed program designed to expedite students through the training process,” explained Jennifer Rushton, PQA (Professional Quality Assurance) lottery and gaming vice president.
PQA is the parent company of PLATO Testing, PQA delivering the training at Sault College.
“It’s a six month program, the first four months in class, then a two month paid internship, and on successful completion of the six month program students are offered full time permanent employment through PLATO Testing in Sault Ste. Marie,” Rushton said.
Training began with 16 Indigenous students at Sault College this week, said Colin Kirkwood, Sault College academic vice president.
“This is good news for Sault College... 23 per cent of our students are Indigenous, and this is about jobs, and Sault College is about preparing people for jobs, so this is a win-win,” said Ron Common, Sault College president.