Buddy Cardinal, Project Coordinator/Training and Employment Coach, at ACCESS (the Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society), who also sits on the Board of Directors of Skills Canada, has more perspective on the organization than do most.
He has been in contact with ACCESS for 20 years now, beginning as a teen, when he was brought into the BladeRunners, a program that exposes at-risk youth to construction work. He took to the trades like a fish to water and worked in carpentry for nearly a decade before coming back to ACCESS for help to prepare for his Red Seal exam (until then he had been focused on residential construction, where the Red Seal is not as essential). “I took the prep course, wrote my Red Seal and passed it. That was definitely a game changer for me. Suddenly, I was able to work on big, commercial projects, for almost double the wages!”
He was proof that ACCESS works, but the organization was not done with him yet. When he was working as a Journeyperson, a few years later, ACCESS approached him about working for the organization. So, four years ago, he joined them as a Training and Employment Coach. He hasn’t looked back. “I grew up in the City [Vancouver], off-reserve for my whole life, a young native guy. Having the opportunity to help other urban native people pursue their path into the trades – it’s a pretty good fit,” he laughs.
Today, he is Seaspan’s main contact with ACCESS for Foundation level students and apprentices. (In 2013, Seaspan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ACCESS and two other Aboriginal organizations – AMTEP and CSETS – that work in training and employment.)
Buddy is proud of the successful Seaspan apprentices that ACCESS has helped along their way and mentions a few of them by name: Kendall Trout and Jordan Harper, who have recently completed their apprenticeship training as Metal Fabricators and are awaiting confirmation of Red Seal certification from Seaspan; Zach Hopper, has also recently completed his apprenticeship training as a Welder and is awaiting confirmation of Red Seal certification from Seaspan. “Together, ACCESS and Seaspan are doing good work. It’s a strong partnership that works for both organizations.”
For himself, Buddy is just grateful for the opportunity to give back and make a difference. “I like to help people – how great is it that I get to do that for a living? I used to build houses. It feels a lot more fulfilling to be building community.”