New Funding Partnership Supports Young Indigenous Adults to Become Water Treatment Plant Operators
December 1, 2021
Bank of America’s support to help bolster critical solutions to water challenges in Indigenous communities
Bank of America and Canadian charity Water First Education & Training Inc. today announced their funding partnership to support the delivery of hands-on skills training through drinking water treatment and environmental water science internships for young Indigenous adults. Bank of America is committing $1 million US over four years, which will contribute resources for more young Indigenous adults to become water treatment plant operators and support their communities to ensure safe, clean drinking water.
“Through this investment, we endeavor to connect Indigenous people to opportunities that will help them build stability and a more successful future, in addition to providing access to a life necessity,” said Gaylen Duncan, chief operating officer of Canada at Bank of America.
“The partnership with Water First allows Bank of America to play a critical role in helping to scale up talent in, and provide essential life services to, the Indigenous community. We have a long tradition of philanthropy in Canada. From supporting initiatives to promote mental health, to building homes and delivering food for the needy, we are always looking for unique and impactful ways to take our commitment to the community to the next level. This commitment to Water First is part of our efforts to advance racial equality and economic opportunity for historically marginalized communities through a $1.25 billion, five-year commitment,” Duncan added.
Discussions with Bank of America began early in 2021 as the company identified the important role that Water First’s internship graduates play in increasing water-science capacity within Indigenous communities. The support of donors makes a significant impact as Water First meaningfully collaborates with Indigenous communities to develop effective community-based solutions to address water challenges.
“Being an operator is quite the responsibility; not to be taken lightly,” shares Hunter Edison, Water First graduate from Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation. Hunter graduated from the internship in October 2021 with his operator-in-training certification. While completing his internship, he began working at the local water treatment plant in his community where he is now the senior operator. “You’re not just keeping one person safe. Or just yourself. It’s the whole community. Before this, I didn’t realize that I could fulfill such an important role for my community.”
The Water First program provides each intern with 1,800 hours of on-the-job experience in water treatment plants, which is a part of the certification process. Through the 15-month program, interns also pursue their water quality analyst certification, which can lead to work in both drinking water treatment and the environmental water field.
“The transformational support from Bank of America is a critical investment in Water First’s ability to serve Indigenous communities in Canada,” said John Millar, executive director and founder at Water First. “The pledge is timely, with community interest in Water First’s programs being expressed from coast to coast to coast, and we are honoured to collaborate on this four-year commitment with such passionate supporters. Together with Indigenous community partners, we will support more young Indigenous adults and communities with hands-on skills training to ensure sustainable access to safe, clean drinking water – both now and for the future.”
Many First Nations with drinking water challenges have identified the need for more young, qualified and local personnel to support solving water issues independently and for the longer term. Indigenous communities do not receive adequate education, training and employment supports when it comes to attracting and retaining young people in the water science fields. These supports are critical to ensuring the long-term sustainability of Indigenous drinking water systems.
Indigenous communities are encouraged to reach out to Water First to learn more about the Drinking Water Internship and the other water education and training programs the organization delivers.
Water First Education & Training Inc. (Water First) is a registered Canadian charity that addresses water challenges in Indigenous communities through education, training and meaningful collaboration. Since 2009, Water First has collaborated with 56 Indigenous communities across Canada to inspire Indigenous youth and young adults to pursue careers in water science.
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. In Canada, the company provides investment banking, equity and debt trading, and research products and services to institutional, corporate and government clients.
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