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ᑖᓐ ᑳ ᐄᔑ ᒥᔅᑯᐧᐋᐦᑖᑲᓅᐦᒡ ᐙᔅᐙᓂᐲ

ALNA Report - Waswanipi

Waswanipi is a community with strong awareness and interest in adult education and training. The community is home to the Sabtuan Regional Vocational Training Centre (SRVTC), which provides high-quality training programs to students across Eeyou Istchee. Waswanipi also has a youthful population eager to explore opportunities for their future, with 66% of the population below the age of 35.

Waswanipi Eenouch 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 easy access to SRVTIC, an enthusiastic population, and growing economy, the future for adult education and training is bright in Waswanipi. We look forward to using this data to identify the strategies and services that will best support student success in the community.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment surveyed 330 Waswanipi Eenouch.

Most of those surveyed (276 participants) were aged 15-45.

20 community members and 6 employers also participated in qualitative interviews.

This sample size provides us with a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of 4.7%, making the ALNA a very reliable source of data on Waswanipi community members.

Key Takeaways

Waswanipi Eenouch value education

Almost all community members who took our surveys (99%) agreed with the statement “Education is important.” Respondents believed that adult education (94%) and post-secondary studies (89%) led to better jobs and a brighter financial future.

Interest in entrepreneurship is high

Although “Starting a Business” was a popular program across all communities, Waswanipi was the only community where the program was ranked as one of the top three programs. Interest was high for both male and female respondents.

Family support matters

Individuals with strong parental encouragement were about 2x more likely to complete post-secondary than those who did not have such encouragement at home. While family impact is critical in all communities, the correlation between family encouragement and educational success was stronger in Waswanipi than in all other inland communities.

Culturally relevant programs are in demand

All communities surveyed indicated a high demand for culturally relevant programs. In Waswanipi, the top two programs of interest were Cree Traditional Knowledge & Skills and Cree Culture & History. Cree language was listed as fourth most popular choice, and many of those interviewed also spoke to the importance of culturally relevant education.

Diploma completion rates show SRVTC’s impact

In Waswanipi, 72% of community members hold at least one type of diploma, and 21% have a Diploma of Vocational Studies. These rates are higher than the average across all communities. This indicates that Sabtuan Regional Vocational Training Centre (SRVTC) has significantly impacted the community. The community’s relatively high education level also impacts the level of interest in going back to school, which is slightly lower than neighbouring communities.

Community Education Profile

In Waswanipi, most adults have at least one type of diploma. Many adults in the community are also interested in pursuing further education; 81% of community members are interested in going back to school, with higher rates of interest for those without a diploma. 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.

About half the adults in this community (52%) 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 and family responsibilities were the most common reasons people withdrew from school in Waswanipi.

Waswanipi adults see the value of vocational training and adult education; however. there are some challenges that may stand in the way of returning to school. Financial concerns, parenting responsibilities, self-esteem and disinterest in existing programs were all factors that came out of our surveys and interviews. SAES will use this data to identify services and strategies that respond directly to these challenges, allowing students to be successful.

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 Waswanipi. 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 Waswanipi.

Student Success Factors

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

Ninety-nine percent (99%) of Waswanipi community members agreed with the statement “education is important.” Despite this fact, 52% of respondents said they withdrew from school at least once, most often in Secondary III or IV. Of these, 49% say that boredom and disinterest were among their main reasons for withdrawing. This data shows the importance of creating an engaging, inspiring environment for adult students. There are a few ways we can work to achieve this:

Quality teaching. Adult education students reported that their teachers were knowledgeable (93%), easy to communicate with (90%) and understanding of the Cree culture (78%). This plays an important role in their success.

My teachers motivated me at SAES. I just wanted to learn more like… I don’t know. It’s like I was hungry for that kind of class. It is also how they were teaching too. They were really great teachers.

The teachers, yeah, they were nice. Like I had a funny teacher and… he understood how you feel.

Teachers at the secondary school level were also considered important in the educational journey, setting students up for success later on.

(In high school) my teachers are what I appreciated the most. My math teacher, English teacher, they were my favourite. My science teacher, he would explain in a way that nobody could. They helped me a lot in my schoolwork, and I guess that’s what made me more prepared for college.

Teachers are what I appreciated the most in high school. They were helpful.

On the other hand, those who experienced teacher shortages or a lack of support in school and said this played a major role in their disinterest and their decision to withdraw from school.

Honestly, it was getting bad because kids in high school don’t listen anymore and teachers are quitting their jobs. Thinking about it now, my brother would always come home saying ‘I don’t have a teacher. There’s nothing to do‘.

For sure there was lack of teachers in a lot of our classes. Especially the math and science sector. We didn’t really have much support other than getting substitute teachers almost every day.

Cultural relevance. Students shared that it was meaningful to be able speak Cree language and practice their culture at school.

I really appreciated the Cree language in that high school. Cree Language and Cree Culture was one of the classes I really liked and the teachers were nice. They talk to you in Cree instead of English and French… it has kept me grounded. It’s something I feel that grounds me but I do not practice a lot of it.

(Cree culture) is represented at Sabtuan since they provide goose break and moose break. It helps keep the culture alive.

There was also high interest in culturally relevant programs among adults in the community, as noted in the Program Recommendations section of this webpage.

Learning environment. In interviews, current and past students had positive feedback about the learning environment at SRVTC. Things that may seem small, like the friendliness of other students or a morning coffee, supported student engagement.

I’m pretty satisfied with how things are… I enjoy the hands-on classes, doing things I like to do.

Everyone’s friendly here.

They have free coffee. So, I wouldn’t have to run home to get coffee or water. They would help students when they need help. Teachers were nice.

Overall, the impact of teachers, the learning environment, and cultural relevance are all deeply important in student success. These factors not only impact engagement in school, but they can be felt long after a student leave the classroom. Supporting the hiring and retention of dedicated, engaging teachers should be a priority for SAES. We should also ensure that we continue to provide a learning environment that is welcoming, stimulating, and culturally relevant.

Actions Taken

  • Implemented new recruitment strategies to support teacher hiring.
  • Development of Cree-centric Teaching and Learning Framework.
  • Expanded adult education team to include Coordinator of Student Success.

Next Steps

  • Use new Cree-centric Teaching and Learning Framework to support culturally relevant practices in the classroom.
  • Support initiatives aimed at training and recruiting Cree teachers.
  • Increase services (counselling, special needs support, etc.) to support the needs of all students.

Family Impact

For most Waswanipi adults, family members have an extremely strong impact on educational success.

While all family members are important, the impact of parents is most evident from the ALNA data. Students who graduated with a university degree were significantly more likely have parental encouragement, compared to respondents with no degree:

Even in adulthood, family often play a role in an adult's decision to return to their studies:

My husband and my mom. I talked to them about going back to school. I told them I was thinking about it and they said ‘if you love it, do it. We’ll just be by your side. If you lose motivation, we’ll help you get back to it.'

My family encouraged me. Mostly my mom. They just told me to keep going. They encouraged me, and my mom helped me financially.

My girlfriend. There were times when I wanted to give up and then she kept like pushing me.

My parents supported me. We all finished in my family. They helped me move and they motivated me, like ‘you should go to school’.

Another family-related consideration is that many adult students have children. In Waswanipi, pregnancy and problems at home are among the common reasons people leave their studies. Most adults wait until their children are older and in school before going back to adult education. Family responsibilities, especially when children are young, can make returning to school a challenge:

I had children. That was the time my mother was sick too, so part of that I stayed home with her. Also, since I was under 18, I couldn’t be under welfare to pay my daycare expenses, so I stopped going to school.

My second child was born and I was missing class. They had to let me go, they were pretty strict.

I want to wait until my youngest starts kindergarten or grade 1 at least.

I had to wait until my kids were a little older.

As they get older, however, children can also help motivate parents to go back to school:

(I went back to school because) I wanted to succeed for my kids I guess. That’s my motivation. And for myself obviously [laughs].

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.

Personal Motivation & Goals

There are many outside influences, such as parents, teachers, and school environment, that can impact student success. In addition, the ALNA shows us that internal factors, like personal motivation and goal setting, are very important.

In our interviews, those who withdrew often did not have a clear goal in mind which required school. This made them less motivated to continue:

I lost interest. I thought I was going to take a year break [chuckles]. Next thing you know, I didn’t go back. I had work and took a break too long and it just didn’t seem like going back was possible.

Well, I mean I did the exam like maybe 4-5 times this math. I had a lot of difficulties to pass it and then, I had enough and I was like ‘ok, I’ll just walk away from this and try to look for something else. Because I know there’s a lot more things to do.’

On the other hand, those who continued with school or went back often had a career or personal goal motivated them. Being able to give back to the community was particularly important to many interviewees:

I would like to be a counsellor in mental health. My goal will be to be helping others.

I am going back to school soon. I’m taking social services. My goal is to work here (in the community) to help families and their kids.

What motivated me (to stay in school) was that I wanted to do something for the community. So, try to come back with something to help the community anyway I can, with anything I can learn in school.

Heavy machinery was something I always wanted to do. I thought I’d give it a try and I am very much enjoying it.

Clearly, having a clear goal that centres around personal motivation and community impact makes a strong difference for students of all ages. Supporting the goal-setting process and encouraging motivation should be a priority for SAES.

Actions Taken

  • Ee-Es-Kwee-Dow (My Learning Plan) course for adult students.
  • Adult Learner Day/Creative showcase organized to celebrate students.
  • Hiring of new Counsellors to help students with plan, set goals, and build personal skills.

Next Steps

  • Improve use and follow-up of Learning Plans.
  • Increase linkages with health board to support students with challenges.

Job & Financial Considerations

For those enrolled in school, financial concerns can have a significant impact in their engagement. Forty-seven percent (47%) of community members who withdrew from education at some point said that needing a job to provide financial support was a factor.

Even years after leaving school, finances continue to impact decision-making. When we surveyed respondents who did not intend to go back to school, nearly half (49%) said they were hesitant because they need to support their family financially.

Is there something preventing me from going back to school? My truck payments [chuckles], my bills. That’s pretty much it, yeah.

Life is in the way [laughs] I guess… work, car payments and stuff.

However, jobs and finances can also motivate people to go back to school. When community members are confident that a better job would result from their schooling, they may be motivated to continue their education:

I thought about my future… without a diploma, I wouldn’t be able to go far. Not many doors would be open for me. So, that’s why I got my diploma.

The program I took was for a job in demand so to speak. I knew if I graduated, I’d be able to have a job in the community. Either here or for the band.

One interesting finding was that the unemployment rate was much higher for men (25.3%) than for women (11.6%) in Waswanipi, even though men are generally more highly educated in the community. There is no explanation for this gap. Trends like these could explain why people are hesitant to go back to school, as education does not always guarantee job prospects in certain fields.

There are many ways SAES can respond to this success factor. Our financial assistance program, which launched in 2020, is a good starting point. Additionally, our formal partnership with Apatisiiwin Skills Development will help to better connect training and career opportunities for adults in the community. Moving forward, we should keep students’ career and financial prospects in mind as we select, promote, and develop programs for the community of Waswanipi.

Actions Taken

  • Student Financial Assistance launched in 2020. Signed partnership agreement with Apatisiiwin Skills Development (ASD).
  • Working with Cree Board of Health to offer direct-to-employment vocational programs.

Next Steps

  • Increase collaboration with employers (ex. customized trainings).
  • Work with Apatisiiwin Skills Development on joint initiatives.
  • Increase awareness of Financial Assistance program.

Program Recommendations

Many potential adult education students in Waswanipi 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 Waswanipi. Along with considering entrepreneurial programs like "Starting a Business” and “Construction Business Management,” we can also support this interest by discussing entrepreneurial career paths in all vocational programs and goal-setting services.

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.

We need people that have a vocational degree... We need also sometimes people with a technical degree, a DEC. And also we need some more local entrepreneurs. - Public entity

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 Waswanipi, 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:

  • Time management/punctuality
  • Communication skills (presentation skills and French)
  • Computer skills
  • Problem solving
  • Food handling (MAPAC)
  • Accounting
  • Numeracy skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • CPR/first aid
  • Industrial cleaning

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

Communication skills. I’m going to need someone who speaks French. And teamwork is very important. And also negotiating skills.”
- Private company

Program Delivery

While many Waswanipi adults are open to traveling for short periods to continue their education, some preferred to remain in their community. Overall, 26% of community members say they would only consider a program if it was offered in their community. On the other hand, about the same percentage (25%) would be willing to actually live in another community to pursue their studies.

(I would like to finish my) secondary V diploma. Someone graduated here using the Internet and so I’m trying to find out how you do that. That’s what I'm interested in. Online schooling, would be good.

Another way to provide education is through technology. If a program of interest was not offered in their community, 71% 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. Internet quality and access to learning technologies would need to be further explored if offering these options.

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.