P.E.I. will soon have a training program aiming to bring more Indigenous people into the information and technology industry.
The program has been offered for free across Canada by Professional Aboriginal Testing Organization Inc. (PLATO), a Fredericton-based company, since 2015.
PLATO's founder Keith McIntosh said the program helps remove geographical barriers for Indigenous people to get tech jobs.
"Indigenous people are tremendously underrepresented in technology. And that's a shame because technology, especially in more remote reserves and communities, you have to go away for work," said McIntosh.
"But technology can go anywhere. So instead of having to take people away from the communities to work, you can take the work to those communities."
The course lasts for five months and provides students with necessary skills to become software testers, followed by a paid internship.
'What we really saw was hope'
Since the program was created in 2015 in response to some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action, it has had more than 200 graduates across the country.
PLATO works with different funding agencies such as the federal and provincial governments, McIntosh said, so there's no charge for the course to the students, who are also provided with a laptop during the program.
"We try to remove as many barriers as possible for getting people into the program, into technology," he said.
Those successfully graduating from the program are offered a full-time job as a software tester with PAQ Testing where McIntosh is also founder. Some graduates even brought their mothers in to join the course, he said.
"People continue on in the industry, many of them are still working for us," he said.
"What we really saw was hope. It's a stable path. There's a paycheque every two weeks and there's an opportunity to grow."
McIntosh hopes the program will help Indigenous communities on P.E.I. have income coming in from away.
"We don't have to take a kid from Lennox Island [First Nation] to Toronto to work in a bank. We can now take the software, the technology to Lennox Island and test there. We've had people in the Eel Ground [First Nation], New Brunswick, testing the software from LinkedIn out of Los Angeles.
"It's new money coming into communities."
The program is recruiting on P.E.I. and will start in June.