Toronto, ON – Last week, Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nations (WBAFN), Gezhtoojig Employment & Training, Anishinabek Nation and Water First Education & Training Inc. celebrated the graduation of 14 interns from the Georgian Bay Drinking Water Internship Program. This program is a paid internship that recruits young Indigenous adults to the drinking water field, and helps them obtain entry-level certifications required to begin their careers in water treatment. Having qualified, local personnel also supports communities in having access to safe, clean drinking water for the long term.
“Clean and safe drinking water is very important and a must for our communities. New technology and a new generation of trained individuals will enrich the communities and provide advancement and growth within. Congratulations to all of the graduates, who have demonstrated a true dedication to learning, a passion for water, and a commitment to themselves and their communities. I know they will go on to achieve more great things.” – Theresa Teddy, Executive Director, Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nation
During the 15-month internship program, each intern accumulated 1,800 hours of on-the-job experience in water treatment plants, which is a part of the water operator in training (OIT) certification process. Interns also pursued additional water operator certification exams including water quality analyst and the entry-level course for drinking water operators, as well as environmental relevant training like GIS and water sampling which can lead to work in both drinking water treatment and the environmental water field. Following graduation, interns join the Water First Alumni Network to stay engaged, build local networks and access opportunities for ongoing professional development and peer support.
“The Drinking Water Internship Program not only supports interns in building the skills to become water treatment plant operators — it also gives them exposure to water science as a whole and opens up an entire world of opportunity. It’s been so rewarding to work with the Georgian Bay interns and see their skills and confidence increase. I wish them all the best for the future, and look forward to seeing them as part of the alumni network.” – Kendra Driscoll, Water Quality Specialist at Water First
“I’m doing this for me to have more meaningful, stable employment opportunities. I’m doing this for my family and community, who rely on water operators on reserve to provide safe, clean drinking water.” – Laura Mallinson, graduate from Nipissing First Nation
“The Water First internship program means a lot to me, because it’s given me the opportunity to become a second-generation water operator. My mother is the Overall Responsible Operator at the Wasauksing water treatment plant, and I got to grow up watching her in the lab, doing cool stuff — and now I get to do everything side-by-side with her. The internship helped me understand what she does for the community.” – Isaiah Tabobondung, graduate from Wasauksing First Nation