Northern Lakes College Collaboration Results in Creation of the Atoske Community Educational Health Lab

In October 2018, the Atoske Action Group (AAG) and Northern Lakes College (NLC) celebrated the grand opening of the Atoske Community Educational Health Lab located at the Northern Lakes College campus in Wabasca. This was made possible when AAG received a contribution of $450,000 from the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada to train community members who want to pursue health careers. AAG dedicates its work to increasing the skills, abilities, and size of the local work forces within its communities, which include Bigstone Cree Nation, Chipewyan Lake, the MD of Opportunity, Peerless Trout First Nation, Sandy Lake, and Wabasca-Desmarais. “Atoske” is the Cree word meaning, “to work”.

In 2015, The Bigstone Health Commission reached out to the AAG to assist in promoting health careers to community members. Roundtable meetings between AAG, Alberta Works, Bigstone Education Authority, and NLC resulted in the development of a plan that supports community members to pursue Health Care Aide training.  

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada comments, “Access to local community training programs creates new opportunities for life. Through effective partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, the Government of Canada is helping to remove barriers to success by ensuring local citizens are able to obtain the skills they require to fully participate in the economy and strengthen their communities.”

Art Bigstone, Chair of AAG comments, “A crucial aspect of the Atoske Action Group vision is to provide meaningful and accessible training through key partnerships. The Atoske Community Educational Health Lab and its associated programming are only possible because of the partnership between the Atoske Action Group, Bigstone Cree Nation, the M.D. of Opportunity, the Western Diversification Program, and Northern Lakes College.”

“Educating local residents in the health professions will be a real asset to the MD of Opportunity when we open our seniors’ health facility in the fall of 2019,” enthuses Reeve Marcel Auger, MD of Opportunity No. 17.

NLC President and CEO Ann Everatt says, “The College’s ongoing commitment to access and quality results in the reduction of educational barriers faced by northcentral Albertan’s. The Atoske Community Educational Health Lab ensures that community members will have access to the lab experiences required for the Health Care Aide program right here in the community. As a part of the larger initiative to increase capacity for Health Care Aides in the community, the creation of the customized Health Preparation Program ensures that local students receive the educational preparation required to enter into the Health Care Aide program.”