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Inlailawatash (pronounced In-lay-le-wa-tosh) is a First Nations business that was established in 2004 as an independent company responsible for managing the forestry needs of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver. The majority of field crew employees at Inlailawatash are First Nations.

Between 2008 – 2011 the forestry sector in BC faced challenges and the company re-established itself as a vegetation management company in order to grow the business, expand training and employment opportunities. It was during this period that Inlailawatash began encouraging it’s Tsleil-Waututh employees to become Utility Arborists, since the majority of the company’s work was coming from managing the vegetation along the transmission lines for BC Hydro. At first, two employees registered to become Utility Arborist apprentices, with more subsequently registering since then. To date, two Tsleil-Waututh employees have now successfully become certified and five are currently registered apprentices.

By becoming an employer sponsor for Utility Arborist apprentices, Inlailawatash are training their field crews to do the work the business needs, and as a result keeping the business competitive in this niche market. Another advantage of sponsoring apprentices has been succession planning. New Tsleil-Waututh community employees are participating in the apprenticeship program and will eventually be able to take on Crew Lead roles. The business’ end goal is to have First Nations community members employed in all of the company’s leadership roles, and sponsoring employees through the Industry Training Authority’s apprenticeship program is allowing Inlailawatash to work towards this goal.

Additionally, participating in the apprenticeship program has given Inlailawatash employees a step up in terms of their career growth, and given them a target to work towards. As a small business, having access to a structured apprenticeship program to complement on the job training, has resulted in long-term positive impacts for the company, the employees and the Tsleil-Waututh community as a whole.

Apprentice Spotlight:

Chris George-Thomas is Inlailawatash’s first employee, and the first Tsleil-Waututh community member, to become a Certified Utility Arborist and a champion of apprenticeship for the company. Chris was a pioneer at Inlailawatash with his apprenticeship, sticking with the program through thick and thin, as the business became established and eventually expanded. Today, Chris is a Certified Utility Arborist and Crew Lead for Inlailawatash, and has paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.

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