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ᑖᓐ ᑳ ᐄᔑ ᒥᔅᑯᐧᐋᐦᑖᑲᓅᐦᒡ ᒥᔅᑎᓯᓃ

ALNA Report - Mistissini

Mistissini is the second-largest community in Eeyou Istchee. It is a growing and dynamic community, with approximately 62% of the population under the age of 35.

There are many opportunities before this community, including a new Adult Learning Centre, a wide variety of public and private sector jobs, and growing interest in entrepreneurship amongst the population.

To respond to the opportunities ahead and to support the goals of community members, we must understand their interests, success factors, and needs when it comes to education and career paths.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment surveyed 412 Mistissni Eenouch.

Most of those surveyed (246 participants) were aged 15-45.

17 community members and 8 employers also participated in qualitative interviews.

This sample size provides us with a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of 6%, making the ALNA a very reliable source of data on Mistissini community members.

Key Takeaways

Mistissini Eenouch value education

Nearly half of Mistissini Eenouch do not hold a diploma; however, the vast majority agree that education is important (98%) and would consider going back to school (86%). Those without a diploma are most motivated to complete their education, provided the right support and opportunities are available.

Family is at the centre of adult students' lives

The responsibilities of parenthood (financial and time) are among reasons people withdraw from school. On the other hand, setting an example for children was also a strong motivation to return to school. To support adult students in reaching their goals, we must consider the needs of parents, children, and families overall.

Mistissini adults want to learn more about Cree language, culture, and history

The top three programs of interest to community members were (1) Cree language, (2) traditional knowledge & skills, and (3) Cree culture and history. SAES can respond to this demand not only by offering these programs. but by taking steps to make all programs more culturally relevant.

Program location is a deciding factor

While most adults showed interest in further education, 31% of Mistissini Eenouch would not consider taking a program outside of their community. This is the highest rate of any community, showing that local offerings carry particularly strong weight in Mistissini. The community also showed some openness to online learning, which may help increase access to programs without requiring students to relocate.

Community interest and employer needs overlap for several programs/skills

The ALNA found a variety of programs that would meet employer needs and interest prospective students. These included carpentry, cooking, starting a business, electricity and plumbing. Post-secondary programs were also identified in areas such as IT, engineering, teaching, and nursing. Soft skill training in areas like time management and communication were also in high demand. These results will be considered when selecting programs for the new Mistissini Adult Learning Centre.

Community Education Profile

In Mistissini, 55% of adults have at least one type of diploma. The rate of diploma completion varies by age and gender.

Most adults in this community (69%) have not had a linear educational pathway. Those who have experienced one or more interruptions in their educational journey are less likely to have completed a diploma. Disinterest, family responsibilities, and interpersonal challenges at home/school were most common reasons people withdrew from school in Mistissini. 

Despite these challenges, there are many positive signs for the future of education in Mistissini:

  • the new Mistissini Adult Learning Centre opening in 2021,
  • a positive perception of education in the community,
  • and a large population of adults  (86%) who would consider going back to school.

The community education profile shows us where we are. Now, it’s time to find out where we can go from here.

Through our interviews and follow-up questions, we were able to identify success factors which impact current and prospective students in Mistissini. Understanding these factors will help us to set up services and supports that help adults achieve their educational goals. 

We also found out community members’ program interests, and discovered how these interests aligned with community/employer needs (by reviewing CENA results from Apatisiiwin Skills Development and interviewing employers). This will help us select and offer programs that will support the community’s future.

It is important to note that any strategy we build must have a strong cultural foundation and a plan for continuous community collaboration.

These all must be considered as we build a local adult education strategy for Mistissini.

Student Success Factors

In this section, you’ll read about the different success factors we’ve identified in Mistissini. We’ll also share some of the ways we plan to respond to these success factors in our Local Adult Education and Training Strategy. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to share your own ideas and identify what improvements are most important to you.


In our interviews, we found that self-esteem had a very strong influence on whether students completed a diploma.

Students with diplomas shared that they enjoyed being challenged and encouraged at school, because it pushed them further and allowed them to see their full potential:

I remember seeing my report card at the end of the semester and I got my first ever A, since I started going to school. And I think seeing that A, that‘s when I really said: 'You know what, maybe I am smart enough to be where I am.' To sit in college and it really shifted my mindset with that. And then my last two years of college, I was a straight A student.

I was into hockey and it motivated me to want to go further. So, with the support of my Coach and team, I pushed myself. I wanted to finish school to go further with my sport.

Those who left school also indicated that low self-esteem contributed to their decision to withdraw:

I think the main challenges that I faced, especially early on, is my self-confidence. I had a lot of doubt about myself, self-doubt. I wasn't confident at all in high school, even in early college. I was very shy and I had to change the way I was thinking cause I felt like the community I grew up in, Mistissini, not just school but with family and friends, I feel like I grew up in an environment where we put non-Native schools higher than us. Like, we would put ourselves down. I would get that kind of message growing up. So...I guess that eventually that message turned into a belief.

I had a family situation that made me miss a lot of school days. I couldn't keep up with my work, so the teacher suggested that I withdraw instead because of how much time was left with the course. So, I did that. I was disappointed in myself, so I didn't bother to go the next day… I wished they could have motivated me more and made me believe in myself - that I could do it in time. Give me the opportunity to try.

Fortunately, there are many ways to help adults increase their self-esteem. Feeling supported and motivated at school, at home, and in the community can make a big difference in a person's confidence. We can also support students in building their Cree identity and encourage them to discover their personal strengths and gifts.

Recently, Sabtuan Adult Education Services added a Student Success function to its administrative team, with a regional Coordinator of Student Success starting soon. Finding ways to support student self-esteem will be an important focus area for this Coordinator, and for adult education as a whole.

Actions Taken

  • Adding a Coordinator of Student Success to our team.
  • Ee-Es-Kwee-Dow (My Learning Plan) course for General Education students.
  • Adult Learner Day, student Christmas gifts, and other events being planned.

Next Steps

  • More self-esteem training/tools for teachers.
  • Celebrate accomplishments regularly.
  • Showcase Cree stories, art, and examples of student excellence at Mistissini Adult Learning Centre.

Family Impact

For many Mistissini adults, family members greatly impact educational decisions and motivations. 

On one hand, needing to care for a young family (22%) and problems at home (17%) are leading reasons people withdraw from their studies. On the other hand, the family often play a role in an adult's decision to return to their studies:

I wanted to work – to help my parents with things like groceries, etc. Things they had to pay were piling up. Then they wouldn’t have much money to buy groceries.

I went back to school at Sabtuan Adult Ed, after my grandpa convinced me to go back and get my diploma...I am very grateful for my mom and husband who supported me a lot. They were taking care of my kids. It helped me balance family and school.

While in school, family has a significant impact on student success. As most adults in Mistissini are young and family bonds tend to be close, the parent-child relationship continues to be critical throughout an adult’s educational journey.

My mother always encouraged me to finish school to get a job that pays more than minimum wage...She told me that people back in Mistissini were giving me as an example, as a role model to their own children. Hearing those kinds of motivational messages helped me get through.

My dad supported me the most. Well… he really insisted that I finished school. He woke me up and I had to go to school, no choice. When he caught me skipping, he would send me back to school…again and again. He kept reminding me to finish school, graduate and go to college.
While this was not the case with every graduate, generally students who graduated with a university degree had a higher level of parental support than respondents with no degree:

Another consideration is children, as many adult students are themselves parents. Many adult education students are motivated to return to school in order to set an example for their children. It is important that we understand the unique needs of young parents, so we can help them to continue in their program while also taking care of responsibilities at home:

I left my vocational training because my daughter was three months when I first went. So, she kept getting sick because it was her first time in daycare. So, I missed a lot because of her being sick. And so, that’s why I was behind and I could not keep up.

My son was born the day I started school. He’s the reason why I wanted to get a job and go to school. It was not always easy, but I had a lot of support from my mom and even the daycare. I sometimes had some free time from 3 to 5 pm, so that’s when I did my homework and studying mostly.

Overall, Sabtuan Adult Education Services must honour the role of the family unit in an adult’s educational journey. It is important that we meet the unique needs of parents and encourage students to reach out to their family support systems. 

Actions Taken

  • Financial assistance policy includes amounts for dependants. 
  • Public childcare coverage now included in financial assistance for parents of young children. 
  • General education teachers work to develop school schedules/ assignments that align with parents’ lives. 

Next Steps

  • Promote our new student finaincial assistance.
  • Further consider family dynamics as part of our Wellness Services/student support services. 
  • Provide mentors for those without close family ties. 

Teaching & School Environment

Once adult students are in school, there are several things that may impact their experience and success. Our surveys and interviews identified four aspects of the SAES experience that greatly impact student success:

High-quality teaching: Adult education students reported that their teachers were knowledgeable (91%), easy to communicate with (85%) and understanding of the Cree culture (75%). Supporting teachers to continue their great work will be important for student success in Mistissini.

If the teacher saw you that you wanted to learn, they put more attention on you to really ensure your progress... Yeah, I got a lot of support from them.

Program structure: Respondents had an overall positive experience at SAES, however, some General Education students felt that a clear schedule with deadlines would help with motivation.

When I went to school at the Adult Ed in Mistissini, they said it's on your own pace. Okay but, it made me feel unmotivated when I was doing it at my own pace. But when I went to Montreal, okay, you have three months to complete one grade. We also had presentations to do and that's where I learned how to talk in front of the class.

Information on education options and a clear application process: It is important that potential students know how to apply to adult education, and have someone to talk to about their program selection. In Mistissini, adults said they preferred to go and meet someone in person to discuss their options (many recalled talking to the SAES receptionist about wanting to go back to school). Most respondents discussed education/program options with friends, family members or a teacher.

My teacher really helped me to understand things. There was a program that really interested me, so I asked, 'how would it be if I went to school in Waswanipi?'. He told me that I could live in the residence and that my daughter could go to the daycare.

In 2020, Sabtuan Adult Education Services launched an online application portal. Our mailing list and pages on the new Cree School Board website are also helpful tools for potential students. However, the ALNA shows us the importance of having people in place to answer questions and support students through the decision-making process. 

Actions Taken

  • Structured calendar (intake and exam dates).
  • Ee-Es-Kwee-Dow (My Learning Plan) course for all General Education students.
  • Began developing Cree-centric Teaching and Learning Framework for teachers.
  • Online application portal launched in 2020.
  • Working to hire an Academic and Information Officer and Guidance Counsellor.
  • Continued work on the SAES Communications Plan.

Next Steps

  • Implement Cree-Centric Teaching and Learning Framework. 
  • Fill guidance counsellor and information officer positions. 
  • Increase responsiveness to teacher requests/feedback so they provide the best support possible for students. 

Alignment with Job Opportunities

In interviews, some people expressed feeling conflicted between going to school and working. Even if education was a long-term goal for someone, they may choose to continue working to gain work experience and seniority at a Cree entity (e.g., Cree Nation Government, Cree Health Board, Cree School Board):

If a permanent position comes up within a year or two then I would have a good chance of obtaining it. That is why I do not want to go back to school for the moment.

After my two years left of probation, I'm sure I'll go back to school because I want to learn more. I don't want to take an educational leave, because the 2 more years of work can help me pay my bills. I'm working now to be able to go back to school later.

While not everyone is willing to give up their job to return to school, many would return to the classroom if it meant getting qualifications for a better job.
The reasons people might consider changing jobs also varies by age. Respondents aged 15 to 25 were most likely to change positions for a better salary (42%) or career advancement (40%), whereas respondents over age 35 would change positions for a promotion (65%). Generally, job satisfaction was lowest for younger adults, which may explain why most adult education students are under the age of 30.
Overall, there are clearly many potential opportunities for SAES work together with entities and employers to offer upgrading programs to existing staff. If individuals can pursue training without losing seniority, for example, they may be more apt to enroll.

Actions Taken

  • Signed partnership agreement with Apatisiiwin Skills Development (ASD).
  • Working with Cree Board of Health to offer relevant vocational programs.

Next Steps

  • Increase collaboration with employers (ex. customized trainings).
  • Work with Apatisiiwin Skills Development on joint initiatives.

Program Recommendations

When asked which programs interested them, most community members selected culturally relevant programs. This was encouraging to see, as strengthening Cree culture and language programming is a priority for Sabtuan Adult Education Services at this time. We look forward to offering more culture/language programs in the future, as well as increasing the cultural relevance of all our programs.

Starting a Business also interested many respondents, which shows an interest in entrepreneurship in MIstissini. We can respond to this interest by not only offering the Starting a Business program, but by helping to connect all vocational students with information about self-employment.

The remaining program selections aligned very much with the jobs employers shared with in most demand. This is not surprising - community members are aware of the types of jobs available in the community, and often gravitate to fields where they know there is a great deal of opportunity. It is encouraging to see that there are several programs that both interest community members and meet these community needs.

By combining community member data, information from Apatisiiwin Skills Developments’ CENA study, and details from the Mistissini Economic Study, we were able to identify the highest-demand programs in Mistissini at present. This list of programs is by no means comprehensive, nor is it an official list of programs we are committed to offering. Other considerations, like feasibility of offering the program locally and the cultural component, will also be considered.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment considered data from Apatisiiwin Skills Development (ASD)’s Community Employment Needs Assessment (CENA) in its program analysis. We also interviewed employers to follow up on the data. If you would like further information on the employment outlook in Mistissini, please contact ASD.

Additional Workshops/non-credited training

Employers and community members also mentioned several other skills which adult education could impart. These may or may not be part of a formal diploma program:

  • CCQ certification
  • Food safety certificate
  • Conversational Cree and French
  • English reading and writing
  • Public speaking
  • Time management and punctuality
  • Business management
  • Teamwork

Employers noted that, in addition to local training opportunities, finding the time to train employees is another significant challenge. 

Punctuality is an issue. I try to have more meetings with staff and we use messaging like it’s their role to set the example and model the behaviour for others to be on time too. I try to make them understand that if you’re late, then somebody else kind of has to do your job. I’ve seen a little improvement.

Program Delivery

Out of all communities, Mistissini adults showed the strongest preference to remain in their community. Thirty-one percent (31%) of respondents said they would not consider attending a program if it was outside the community, compared to 23%, on average, for the other communities. Proximity to home mattered more to students who already had a diploma.

Feels great to be Cree and go to school in my community. I guess it's also a motivator when I see my fellow community members - you feel like you belong. 

Fortunately, another way to provide education is through technology. If the program of interest was not offered in their community, 68% of respondents would be open to taking a course online.

More information on program delivery can be found in the Community Education Profile.

Note: ALNA data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. Online learning readiness may have been impacted by recent events.