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ᑖᓐ ᑳ ᐄᔑ ᒥᔅᑯᐧᐋᐦᑖᑲᓅᐦᒡ ᐧᐄᒥᓂᒌ

ALNA Report - Wemindji

Wemindji is a growing and dynamic community located on the shores of the Maquata River. The community has a large number of children and young adults, with 58% of the population below the age of 35. 

Wemindji 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.

There are many opportunities ahead for Wemindji: a centrally located training centre, a population interested in education and entrepreneurship, and a public and private sector growth, to name a few. Sabtuan Adult Education Services looks forward to working with the community to respond to these results and support the community’s growth.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment surveyed 375 Wemindji Eeyouch.

Most of those surveyed (285 participants) were aged 15-45.

9 community members and 3 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 Wemindji community members. 

Key Takeaways

Wemindji 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 on the rise in Wemindji: 87% of 15-20 year olds say their parents told them school was important, compared to less than half of 31 to 35 year olds.

Cultural relevance is highly valued

In our interviews, community members shared a desire for more Cree cultural content in Wemindji adult education. In addition, 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 and services more culturally relevant.

Wemindji 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. Most adults would prefer a hybrid online/in-person model, where a teacher in the community is available to answer questions and support. 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 Wemindji.
Note that our survey was conducted prior to COVID-19; some perspectives on online learning may have changed over the past year.

Family, teachers, and the community support are key

Reflecting on their educational journeys, many community members say encouragement from teachers, parents, friends, and other community members had an impact on their success. One unique finding in Wemindji was that sports played a positive role in many students’ educational journeys.

Local demand for entrepreneurs and 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. Wemindji 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 many ways, the future of education is bright in Wemindji: the majority of adults have at least one type of diploma, and 88% of adults in the community say that they would consider further education. In addition, 100% of ALNA respondents in Wemindji said they believed that education is important.

There are also some challenges Wemindji, including frequent interruptions in the educational journey for many students. Most Wemindji adults say they experienced at least one interruption in their studies, often during Secondary II or IV. For male students, disinterest was the most common reason for discontinuing studies, followed by a partner’s pregnancy and family obligations. Pregnancy was the leading reason for withdrawals among female students, with 38% saying they left school to have a child.

One of the options for the individuals who leave school is to return and complete their diploma through adult education. There are several factors that impact individuals’ success as an adult student and their decision to return to school. This includes the location of the program, financial support options, and class schedules. Parents are particularly concerned about the location and financial situation when returning to school. Based on this data, we can see that supporting young parents will be an important priority for our adult education strategy.

Overall, Wemindji Eeyouch are clearly motivated, eager, and interested in opportunities that can help them to build a great life for themselves and their families. Many of those who have faced challenges are willing to return to school, if the right supports and programs are in place on the local level.

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 Wemindji. 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 Wemindji.

Student Success Factors

In this section, you’ll read about the different success factors we’ve identified in Wemindji. 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 of the Wemindji community members surveyed agreed with the statement that “Education is important.” Despite this fact, many adults have withdrawn from school at least once. For 39% of students, boredom and disinterest played a role in the decision to withdraw.

This data shows us the importance of creating an engaging, inspiring environment for adult students. There are a few ways we can work to promote this:

Promoting high-quality teaching. Adult education students reported that their teachers were knowledgeable (96%), easy to communicate with (91%) and understanding of the Cree culture (79%). This plays an important role in student success.

(At SAES) the teacher was always willing to help out. Like if we had questions or if we weren’t sure of something.

(Our teacher,) he talked to us a lot about what we would do. He taught in class too before we did a test. He would tell us ahead of time what we need to do.

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

Cree culture kept me grounded (when I was in school). I want to learn to speak Cree.

We should have more Cree Culture courses linked with the programs we take, at Sabtuan.

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

Responding to students’ unique needs. While it is important to challenge students to keep them interested, some may need a bit more time to work through their classes. This is especially true of students with children, who may be balancing home and school responsibilities. Those with literacy challenges and/or those who have been out of school for a while may also need additional time or support.:

I think some (of the teachings) were too fast. Like, I couldn’t really learn about (one specific topic). The time was too short, I wish we had more time.

I was engaged with my classes a lot but there were a few challenges. (For) me, personally, it’s like sometimes reading difficult words that I haven’t read before. But I like how useful the book was because it further explained certain words.
When I had kids. I went to Adult Ed. I was unmotivated because by the time I would get home from Adult Ed, my kids were already sleeping so I couldn’t spend much time with them.

Pipe pressure program, it wasn’t long enough. Needed more time to learn.

Support services, literacy programs, and other interventions may help to mitigate some of these challenges for certain students.

Actions Taken

  • Structured calendar (intake and exam dates)
  • Financial assistance policy includes amounts for dependants.
  • General education teachers often work to develop school schedules and assignments that work with parents’ lives.

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 services (counselling, special needs support, etc.) to support the needs of all students.

Personal Motivation

Adults return to school for a variety of personal and professional reasons. In Wemindji, 63% of people say their main reason for returning to school was to get a diploma. In our interviews, adult students shared that their personal drive to succeed and move forward in life contributed to their success:

I went back to school so I could put myself somewhere where I’m just trying to live by. Like I don’t want to just exist but I want to live. Find a career for myself other than just going from job to job.

There are many adults in Wemindji interested in resuming their studies; in fact, 90% of those without a diploma are interested in returning to school. By encouraging these students and giving them the tools to set goals, manage time, and self-motivate, we can give them the tools to in reach their goals.

Actions Taken

  • Ee-Es-Kwee-Dow (My Learning Plan) course for adult students.
  • Motivation webinar offered through Wellness Services.
  • Adult Learner Day/Creative showcase organized to celebrate students.

Next Steps

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

Community & Family Support

During the interviews, students who continued their studies credited having people around them who believed in them, such as parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, mentors, friends, and community members, who were constantly encouraging them to pursue their studies.

My great-grandfather (encouraged me) even though he passed away after. I kept encouraging myself to keep going even though it was kind of hard for a while. I told myself to just keep going.

My parents continued to support me (in Adult Ed.). My friends also, they helped me find training and they pushed me to finish and look for a job.
Those who lacked external support, on the other hand, found it more challenging to stay engaged in their education:
I had no guidance, so I left school to go work. I wanted a career.
I would have stayed in school, if someone could be there to help me, like a tutor or mentor.
Fortunately, support can come in many forms. In addition to family and friends, the community can encourage individuals to pursue their studies. One strong example in Wemindji is sports, which multiple students said played a role in their educational journey:
One (thing that kept me motivated) was sports. I was going to school down south, I played school sports. We travelled a lot. So, because we were on a sports team, we were expected to be at school all the time.
What kept me in school? I guess hockey. Hockey had a lot to do with it too.
From our research, it is clear that internal motivation, external support, and the environment at school all play a role in student success in Wemindji.

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.

Job & Financial Considerations

The ALNA found that access to financial support and daycare were the most important factors in an adult student’s decision to stay in school. Students who were concerned about their financial well-being were more likely to return to work, even if they know that education would support their career in the long-run:

The part that was challenging: to keep up with my financials, bills, I guess. Sometimes, I ran out of money. I couldn’t pay my gas to go back home.

Unsurprisingly, financial concerns are also the top reason people chose not to return to school:

There are two sides to this success factor, however. Forty percent (40%) of people who were interested in going back to school said career advancement was a significant reason. The leading reason, “to get a diploma,” was also influenced by the desire for a stable career.

This information demonstrates the importance of maintaining our financial assistance program, which launched in 2020. A strong partnership with Apatisiiwin Skills Development will also be important moving forward.

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.

  • Consider offering financial management workshops.

  • Grow relationship with Apatisiiwin Skills Development and employers to increase workplace transition support.

Program Recommendations

Many potential adult education students in Wemindji 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 Wemindji; “Starting a Business” was the fourth most in-demand program according to our surveys. Wemindji’s Department of Commerce and Industry and the Wemindji Economic Development Department have both shared a strong interest in supporting local entrepreneurs and the growth of the local private sector. Existing businesses also noted that finding workers who understood business fundamentals, such as marketing and finances, was important to their success.

Finally, language was a common theme for both community members and employers. Employers frequently mentioned the need for higher French competency; community members also showed interest in strengthening their Cree language skills.

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

  • Health and safety

  • Food handling

  • Industrial cleaning

  • Time management

  • Communication (especially French and Cree)

  • CCQ construction certifications

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

There’re some very good people that could become (supervisors) but they have no confidence. So, we have mentorship and try to build their self-esteem and confidence so they become what we expect them to be. - Public employer

A life skills management course. I would look at the things they don’t teach you in college, the things they don’t teach you in high school, but you absolutely need in your everyday life as an adult. - Community member with a diploma

Program Delivery

While many Wemindji adults are open to traveling for short periods to continue their education, some preferred to remain in their community. Overall, 21% of people say they would only consider a program if it was offered in their community and only 17% would consider moving to another community unless they could travel home frequently. Proximity to home appeared to matter more to females than males, though it was a significant factor for both genders.

Another way to provide education is through technology. If a program of interest was not offered in their community, 73% of respondents would be open to taking a course either fully or partially online. Most people preferred a combination of online learning and in-person learning. 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.