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ᑖᓐ ᑳ ᐄᔑ ᒥᔅᑯᐧᐋᐦᑖᑲᓅᐦᒡ ᐙᔅᑳᐦᐄᑲᓂᔥ

ALNA Report - Waskaganish

Waskaganish is a dynamic and youthful community. The average age of a Waskaganish community member is 29.3 years old, and 62% of the population is below the age of 35. 

Waskaganish Eeyouch embraced the Adult Learning Needs Assessment, with over one third of all adults between 15-45 participating in our surveys. Their responses indicated an engaged, vibrant community that values culture, families, and education.

With a centrally located training centre, enthusiastic population, and many opportunities ahead, the future for adult education is bright in Waskaganish. We look forward to using this data to improve our program selection, services, and strategies to better support the community.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment surveyed 375 Waskaganish Eeyouch.

Most of those surveyed (329 participants) were aged 15-45.

17 community members and 14 employers also participated in qualitative interviews.

This sample size provides us with a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of 4.4%, making the ALNA a very reliable source of data on Waskaganish community members. 

Key Takeaways

Waskaganish Eeyouch care about education

All community members who took our surveys (100%) agreed with the statement “Education is important.” Family support for education is also strong in Waskaganish: 97% of 15-45 year olds say their parents told them school was important, and 95% say their parents encouraged them to graduate.

Cultural relevance is highly valued

In our interviews, community members shared a desire for more Cree culture in Waskaganish adult education. In addition, the top three programs of interest to community members were Cree Language, Traditional Knowledge & Skills, and Cree Culture and History. SAES can respond to this demand not only by offering these programs. but by taking steps to make all programs and services more culturally relevant.

Waskaganish adults are open to online learning

Over two-thirds of 15 to 45-year-olds in the community say they would be open to online learning options, which is higher than many other communities. Most adults would prefer a hybrid online/in-person model, where a teacher is available to answer questions in-person. With new student laptops, online learning accounts, and a focus on digital literacy, Sabtuan Adult Education Services is prepared to explore new ways of teaching and learning in Waskaganish.
Note that our survey was conducted prior to COVID-19; some perspectives on online learning may have changed over the past year.

Teachers are key to student success

Reflecting on their educational journeys, many community members say teachers were extremely influential in their success. Current and former adult education students credit their teachers with keeping them motivated, and many rely on trusted educators for information and advice on educational pathways.

Local demand for post-secondary graduates is high

Employers frequently shared with us that their most significant challenge was finding College and University-educated skilled workers in the community. Waskaganish adults also reported high levels of interest in post-secondary programs, as well as in management training and entrepreneurship. Expanding our program offering to support these adults will be a consideration moving forward.

Community Education Profile

In Waskaganish, the majority of adults have at least one type of diploma. In addition, most adults in the community are interested in pursuing further education. Individuals in this community value education and most are encouraged by their parents to continue with schooling, increasing the level of motivation for community members.

Half of the adults in this community (50%) had a linear educational pathway, meaning they did not interrupt their studies until they graduated.  Those who experienced one or more interruptions in their educational journey were less likely to have completed a diploma. Disinterest, problems at school, and family responsibilities were the most common reasons people withdrew from school in Waskaganish. Despite these challenges, almost all students without a diploma (95%) would consider going back to school.

In Waskaganish, younger adults reported lower job satisfaction and higher levels of interest in returning to school than their older counterparts. Supporting the unique needs of young adults, especially those who have children at home, will be an important priority for Sabtuan Adult Education Services in the community of Waskaganish.

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 Waskaganish. 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 Waskaganish.

Student Success Factors

In this section, you’ll read about the different success factors we’ve identified in Waskaganish. 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.

Teaching & School Environment

All Waskaganish community members surveyed agreed with the statement that “Education is important.” However, 50% of respondents said they withdrew from school at least once, most often in Secondary III or IV. Of these, 37% say that boredom and disinterest were among their main reasons for withdrawing.

This data shows the importance of creating an engaging, inspiring environment for students of all ages. In adult education, there are a few ways we can work to achieve this:

Promoting high-quality teaching: Adult education students reported that their teachers were knowledgeable (94%), easy to communicate with (88%) and understanding of the Cree culture (84%). This plays an important role in their success.

I like all of it at Sabtuan Adult Ed, there’s nothing that I don’t like. We have computers to do research too. It’s challenging, but it’s fun [laughs]. It gives me joy.

The teachers were very enthusiastic and they put us on a mode where we want to learn more.

Improving program structure: Students had an overall positive experience at Sabtuan Adult Education Services, however some General Education students felt that a clear schedule with deadlines would help with motivation.

I would like it if there were deadlines, I would finish my work.

Prioritizing cultural relevance: Current and past adult students shared that they would like to see more culturally relevant opportunities at the Waskaganish Training Centre. This could include Cree-centric programs, workshops in traditional skills, or a stronger emphasis on Cree culture and history in all courses.

At Sabtuan, the Cree culture is not really represented. Just reading, writing and listening. There’s no Cree culture, like sewing or making things. I would like it if they had it… It would motivate me if they did outdoor Cree culture things. If they taught the things you do in the bush. I would like that.

I would say that because we were taught Quebec history, it kind of confused me after high school. I know the (Cree) history now. I learned the history because of my work; How we got the beneficiary number, JBNQA and I wished I learned that in high school. I would be more thankful to know how they fought our rights and I didn’t even know that.

By empowering teachers with cultural resources and structured programs, we can build on our existing strengths to further engage and interest adult students.

Actions Taken

  • Structured calendar (intake and exam dates).
  • Ee-Es-Kwee-Dow (My Learning Plan) course for adult students.
  • Developed Cree-centric Teaching and Learning Framework (will launch in 2021).

Next Steps

  • Use new Cree-Centric Teaching and Learning Framework to support culturally relevant practices in the classroom.
  • Hire an Academic and Information Officer to ensure potential students can access accurate, up-to-date information about programs.
  • Increase support available to teachers so they can respond to unique student needs.

Your Response

It’s your turn! What are other ways we can improve the learning experience at the Waskaganish Training Centre?

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Raising Children

For many adult education students, the demands of parenting are a key consideration when deciding to go back to school. Parents have unique demands when it comes to their time and finances, which can mean additional challenges when going back to school:

School was not really challenging. It was just challenging because I needed to juggle my family life, errands for my kids and husband, but the teachers were easy on the students. They let me run my errands at the end of the day and work after.

Although the demands of school can be stressful for parents, many are motivated to set an example for their children:

I am pursuing my studies now and I hope to be an example for my kids first thing, and for other youth too… I want to be an example for my siblings too. Like, anything is possible even though you live in the community.

To support parents in their educational journey, financial support programs and convenient schedules are key. One scheduling consideration shared by current SAES students was a preference for a schedule that was similar to their children’s school and daycare schedules. This allowed adult students to take their break and lunch together with their children:

In 2020, Sabtuan Adult Education Services launched its own financial assistance program for adult education students, which includes amounts for dependants. We hope that this financial assistance will support parents in pursuing their educational goals in the future.

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 often work to develop school schedules and assignments that work with parents’ lives.

Next Steps

  • Further consider family dynamics as part of our Wellness Services/student support services.
  • Increase collaboration with youth sector.

Your Response

It’s your turn! How can the community at large better support parents who want to go back to school?

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Parent & Family Support

Children are not the only family members who can impact the educational journey. Parents, grandparents, partners, and close loved ones can also have a significant impact on student success:

My sister tells me to keep going. She tells me ‘go to school’, she encourages me. She tells me ‘don’t quit’.

My partner wanted me to go to school. He would wake me up.

My cousins. I told them ‘let’s go to school together’. I was in school first then I told them they should go to school too. Now they’re in school too.

My parents. My dad. He woke me up every morning...he got us busy in the evenings, so we wouldn’t go out. He took care of us. And he was the one who really encouraged us to go on, go out, see the world.

Support from parents was important for Waskaganish students in all age groups, even older adults. The majority of people in Waskaganish say their parents encouraged them to value education, and cited them as an important support system in returning to school:

To serve Wakaganish students, Sabtuan Adult Education Services must honour and support the family unit as an important part of an adult’s educational journey.

Actions Taken

  • Wellness Services Counsellor and teachers encourage students to reach out to support systems when needed.

Next Steps

  • Provide mentors/support for students without close family ties.
  • Provide information sessions and community events that allow family members to learn about adult education.

Your Response

It’s your turn! How can you help students in your family feel supported and encouraged?

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Job Opportunities

When we interviewed Waskaganish Eeyouch, it was clear that careers and finances were a significant consideration for those looking to go back to school. Adult education students noted that one of their biggest motivations in returning to school was to qualify for jobs in the community:

My motivation was to have a steady income after. To be able to stand on my own two feet. My motivation has never changed. I still have that drive. I still want to succeed. And I plan on succeeding. And now, well to be honest, ever since I graduated – in my vocational program at Sabtuan – I’ve never been stuck without a job.

Every time I see postings about job openings, I always see it says high school diploma. That’s why I’m in school, because I want to look for another job or go to college. I don’t really see myself there yet.

Job satisfaction also played a role in whether or not a community member was willing to go back to school. In Waskaganish, 35% of respondents who were currently working said they were satisfied with their current position. Curiously, while the satisfaction level varied by age, it did not consistently increase with age as it did in other communities:

Those who are less satisfied with their jobs may be more interested in going back to school. When asked if they would go back to school for additional qualifications if it meant a better job, over one-third of community members (38%) said yes.

Clearly, it is important for adult students to understand how educational pathways relate to career opportunities in the community. By working closely with Apatisiiwin Skills Development and employers, as well as promoting self-employment opportunities to students, we can help respond to this success factor in Waskaganish.

Actions Taken

  • Launched financial assistance program in 2020-21 school year.
  • Partnership with Apatisiiwin Skills Development to support transition to the workplace.

Next Steps

  • Consider offering workshops for workplace integration skills like resume writing, time management, and communication.
  • Grow relationship with Apatisiiwin Skills Development and employers to increase workplace transition support.

Your Response

It’s your turn! How could employers support the educational goals of Waskaganish adults?

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Program Recommendations

Many potential adult education students in Waskaganish are interested in deepening their cultural knowledge and skills, with the majority showing interest in culturally relevant programs. This interest aligns with our internal priorities at Sabtuan Adult Education Services, as we are working to both offer more culture/language programs and to increase the cultural relevance of all programs and services.

Entrepreneurship is also a key interest for adults in Waskaganish. This finding aligns with Waskaganish’s Community Plan (2015), which named entrepreneurship and career-building as one of its five (5) key action areas. We have already responded to this priority by offering “Starting a Business” in the 2020-21 school year, and will continue to consider how entrepreneurship can be supported by our programs, services and partnerships

In the qualitative interviews, community members mentioned the importance of offering a wider and more diverse program list. This is also evident in the list of the programs identified community member and employers, many of which have not been offered in Waskaganish before. Opportunities in sectors such as health care, education, construction, and food services are plentiful in the community, and members are eager to qualify for these local jobs.

By combining community member data with employer feedback from Apatisiiwin Skills Developments’ CENA study, we were able to identify the highest-demand programs in Waskaganish 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 Waskaganish, 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:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Computer skills
  • Health & Safety
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management

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

Teamwork. Communication. Work ethic. For management, they have to improve the writing, the reading, the computer skills. That’s something I want.
— Private sector business manager

We have started to identify our needs internally. We have a lot of needs in health and safety. When we hire, training is mostly on the job. There are also specialized trainings. I think for the future, we need to have a program to train our employees to develop soft skills, for example, communication, teamwork.
— Private employer

Program Delivery

While many Waskaganish adults are open to traveling for short periods to continue their education, some preferred to remain in their community. Overall, 19% of people say they would only consider a program if it was offered in their community. Proximity to home mattered more to students who were older; location was only a barrier for 7% of respondents aged 15-20, compared to 25% of those 36-45.

I would be open to leave the community for a program that is less than 1,200 hours. More than that you are away too long from your family.

Another way to provide education is through technology. If a program of interest was not offered in their community, 72% of respondents would be open to taking a course online. Most people preferred a combination of online learning and in-person access to a teacher for questions. As Sabtuan Adult Education Services has significantly increased its digital capacity over the past year, these are options we could explore to serve more students.

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.