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New program trains Indigenous women to take over IT work in northern Manitoba

A new pilot project based in The Pas at the University College of The North is helping Indigenous women get ready to take over jobs in information technology for the north.

The group of eight Indigenous women are part the first group of students to take the Information Technology Readiness North (INTRN) program designed by and offered at the northern institution in The Pas and meant to boost the digital economy in northern Manitoba. 

Project case manager for INTRN Jenna Brown said as the IT industry grows in the north, so should the presence of Indigenous women who historically been underrepresented in the Manitoba workforce.  

“Our hope is that Indigenous women take over IT, and I think this program is going to help,” said Brown. 

According to UCN, only 2.8 per cent of women at post-secondary institutions in Manitoba study computer or information science. The percentage of women employed in IT is even lower, and lower still for Indigenous women — including Alyssa Provost, who is excited to be part of the new project.

“I would like to get a job in IT. It’s a growing industry and I want to be a part of it,” said Provost.

Alyssa Provost, who is taking the INTRN program, learns to assemble a computer at UCN. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Information technology — including Internet connectivity — is not always consistent in northern Manitoba. That makes almost everything harder to do, including learning in classrooms, conducting business or accessing medical care.

The gap in services became more obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more services moved online. 

Federal and provincial governments have promised to provide more resources to improve IT accessibility. In the meantime, UCN hopes this group of women will be part of changing times ahead — which, more importantly, will see more Indigenous women taking part in the northern Manitoba workforce.

“Every space, professionally needs the perspectives and the ideas of Indigenous women, of Indigenous people — not just to be representative but because we need their perspectives and their world views,” added Brown.

INTRN students learning inside the classroom at UCN. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Brown said the program is designed to make sure it was inclusive for Indigenous women at any age and stage in life. So far the women are between the ages of 21 and 51, some are mothers and some are mature students who’ve been out of school for many years. 

Officials at UCN hope to create more programs specifically for women — programs that will not only support their communities and their families but also that will inspire them. 

Jenna Brown, INTRN Project Coordinator (left) and Danielle McMaster, INTRN Student (right) at UCN in The Pas. (Sheila North/CBC)


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