Algoma News Wawa Ontario
Algoma News, Wawa Ontario

New Northern School to Train Aboriginal Cooks

Publish Date: Wednesday, 26th of May 2010
by Liaison College

CONSTANCE LAKE FIRST NATION – A new school has opened near Hearst, Ontario, to train students to become remote cooks/medics to work in remote northern camps.  The school is the 11th Liaison College franchise in Ontario, and will be located in the Eagle’s Earth Cree and Ojibway Historical Centre owned by Constance Lake First Nation.


While the remote cook/medic training program is open to anyone, it’s expected that northern First Nations residents will make up the majority of the students.  There are plenty of job opportunities for First Nations peoples in remote camps, since most exploration companies must commit to hiring local aboriginal people as part of their land use agreements.  In northern Ontario, the unemployment rate for First Nations people approaches 80 per cent and provincial and federal funding is available to help offset the training costs.


“This is an ‘everybody wins’ situation,” says Paul Leatham, one of three partners in the school, “the First Nations community, the students themselves, companies doing business in the north, and the provincial and federal governments.” 


Leatham and his partners operate PT & Associates Hospitality Services, which helps remote camps – such as those investigating mining, forestry and fossil fuel resources – with their food service and staffing needs. 


“We have employers who are eagerly waiting for local aboriginal peoples to staff those camps,” he says.  “So it made sense for us to open a school to provide training.  After 12 weeks of training, we can have a qualified remote cook/medic on site and ready to go.” 


Leatham and his partners decided to acquire a Liaison College franchise rather than attempt to develop a school from scratch.  An accredited provincial school, Liaison is the largest trainer of chefs in Ontario, with more than 10,000 graduates since the school began operating.  The college’s first campus opened in Toronto in 1996.  In addition to chef training, the northern Ontario Liaison location will provide emergency and standard first aid training, since cooks typically also fill the role of medics in remote camps.


“We’re delighted to have a franchise location in northern Ontario to add to our 10 locations in the southern part of the province,” says Liaison president Rudy Florio.


The prerequisite qualification for training in the Liaison College program is Grade 12 or GED. Mature students must have a minimum of Grade 6 English and Grade 8 math, and students are tested prior to enrolment.  The salary for a cook/medic in a remote camp ranges from $50,000 to $80,000 per year.  They typically work about 12 hours each day, seven days a week for six weeks, and then have two weeks off.


Eagle’s Earth Cree and Ojibway Historical Centre has classroom facilities and a full commercial kitchen.  Students will be picked up and driven to the centre from airports in Timmins, Kapuskasing or Thunder Bay and will live on site during their training.  The school expects to train up to 72 students per year.


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