The first group of Aboriginal students has graduated from the Syncrude Aboriginal Trades Preparation Program. This influential community-based trades program started because of a need and commitment of Syncrude Canada to hire and attract Aboriginal employees. “The Aboriginal workforce is continuously growing and the need for organizations to look at Aboriginal people as valuable employees is needed. Syncrude Canada has a commitment to work with and hire Aboriginal people in the region of Wood Buffalo because of the operation of Syncrude on Aboriginal lands,” said Teresa Outhouse, program coordinator at Keyano College, in Fort McMurray. Syncrude is Canada’s largest oil sands producer, so there is a commitment to secure Canada’s energy future through responsible development, which portrays a culturally sensitive approach to the community the company works in. The Aboriginal Trades Program is one such means for Syncrude to give back. Currently, the program, which assists students in acquiring skills to enter the trades as apprentices and skilled journeymen, is popular. Only 40 positions are available, split equally between Aboriginal people from Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities of Wood Buffalo. Already 182 applications have been received for the next trades program. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and resided in the area for two years. All applicants are interviewed, said Outhouse. “The program is a great opportunity for the students to get mentorship and work experience in the field of the trades that they are interested in. As well, the program allows students to choose their interests and gain valuable training in that area,” said Cheryl Robb, spokesperson with Syncrude. Graduates can work as welders, millwrights, crane operators, indentured apprentices, electricians and more. Along with Syncrude Canada, who committed $2 million towards the program ($1.8 million in cash and the rest for equipment, supplies and apprenticeship), the program is sponsored and supported by the Alberta government, Athabasca Tribal Council, Métis Nation of Alberta, Keyano College and First Nations communities. The positive reception has left community members optimistic that the program can be sustainable. Syncrude Canada has a three-year commitment to the program, but Outhouse is hopeful that the strong response from the community will push the oil and gas company to extend it. “Syncrude is committed to employing the Aboriginal population and it’s the hope of all partners and sponsors that the program can be continuous in the community,” said Robb. This program is exciting for the Aboriginal population of Wood Buffalo and for the 24 graduates of the program in continuing to pursue careers in the trades. “This is a fantastic initiative for the community and Syncrude Canada has been a great partner in fulfilling their commitment to the Aboriginal population of Wood Buffalo. I am very optimistic about the program and the positive impact it will have on the community,” said Outhouse. Syncrude Canada is one of the largest employers of Aboriginal people in Canada and has been committed to providing successful and rewarding careers to its Aboriginal employees.