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Capilano University and BCIT sign agreement with SLCC

The agreement gives credits to students who take the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre’s Youth Ambassador Program
Representatives from SLCC, BCIT and Capilano University smile after signing the Memorandum of Understanding which formally recognizes Indigenous education programming for post-secondary transfer credits.

Indigenous youth who take an ambassador program with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) will now get post-secondary credits for their work.

Capilano University (CapU) and British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the SLCC that gives credit towards applicable programs for graduates of the SLCC’s Youth Ambassador Program (YAB). The program run by the SLCC is a 14-week immersive cultural experience which develops youth’s skills in tourism, communications and business.

Cheximiya Allison Burns Joseph, Indigenous youth ambassador manager for the SLCC, has watched the program grow and evolve, first as someone who took the program and now as its manager.

“The feeling that I get when I have a new cohort is amazing because I've been through it, and I know how scary and rewarding it was when I participated in the program and have experience,” she said.

“I see them come in super shy and very, very timid. It's a good feeling, because I know how much they grow throughout the program and see them succeed and go into amazing opportunities following their internship or their training program with us.”

More than 600 youth have graduated from the program since 2008. It offers paid placements teaching business fundamentals through a First Nations museum lens, with youth hired in food and beverage, retail, and cultural departments at the SLCC.

Ambassadors can sample tourism careers off-site, as well, and they receive professional development, mentorship, and youth gain cultural knowledge so they can proudly and effectively represent their Nations.

Transportation is provided from North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish, Pemberton, and Mount Currie, and intake for the next program begins this fall.

Aurelea Mahood is the associate vice president academic of CapU, and she and Joseph said the partnership came from a historical memorandum to formalize the program when it first began. The new MoU makes it official, and streamlines credit recognition. Normally, students need to go through a prior learning assessment (PLA) to gain recognition for their life experience.

PLAs exist at post-secondary institutions and recognize work and life experience students bring to the hallowed halls, but they require some leg work to get recognition by providing evidence, like work samples and training certificates, to support the request.

“It takes the onus and the responsibility off of the student,” Mahood said of the MoU.

“Students now can walk in knowing, depending on what their future goals are, they've already got that head start.”

The partnership is part of both schools' reconciliation goals, Mahood said, by honouring the work the SLCC does with traditional knowledge transfers and providing flexible pathways to post-secondary.

“We see it as part of that larger commitment to welcoming Indigenous students and supporting them in their learning,” she said.

Justin Williams, associate vice-president, academic at BCIT, echoed Mahood’s sentiments.

“It's taking a more innovative approach to how we assess and recognize Indigenous education and Indigenous ways of knowing in the province,” he said.

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