Dave Bradley is owner and regional manager of Outland Camps Inc. — now Dexterra — in Ontario. Even after 30 years on the job, he continues to make a difference by working tirelessly to increase engagement in and awareness of the youth employment program he started 16 years ago.
The First Nations Natural Resources Youth Employment Program (FNNRYEP) helps set up First Nations youth for success in their education and careers. The program celebrates their indigenous identity and culture. It also inspires them to believe in themselves so that they can take the critical first steps toward a career in something meaningful. Ultimately, the program creates hope for a productive and happy adult and family life.
“We are always trying to create opportunity at Outland for our FNNRYEP students, whether in our workplaces or others,” Bradley said. “Building their personal networks and giving youth a larger sense of accomplishment and pride promotes the confidence youth need to step out and take control of their own lives.”
Outland Camps has also maintained a partnership with Confederation College since 2003 to run its FNNRYEP program. The college’s two-year course creates awareness, generates interest and provides a pathway for First Nations youth from the ages of 16 to 18 to pursue education, training and employment in natural resource- and science-based sectors such as forestry and mining.
FNNRYEP conducts its main program during the summer in a field camp setting, where staff maintains control over daily work and training schedules. It also offers continued support, mentorship and growth. Since 2000, FYNNRYEP has supported youth participants from 50 First Nations communities in northern Ontario, including those near Domtar’s Dryden Mill operations.
Even more notably, the program has graduated nearly 400 First Nations youth with more than 850 seasonal job placements. One such success story is Tyson Williams of the Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, a community forester who previously worked for Domtar and Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources. He frequently returns to speak on behalf of the program.
Bradley attributes his accomplishments in leading youth mentorship programs to his background as an alpine ski coach. In that role, he learned how important it is to invest time and effort into the betterment of youth. Bradley also believes his passion for the program comes from his sensitivity to maintaining the cultural and personal activities of his northern Ontario lands. He believes that Outland is morally obligated to keep the employment demographics in line with the local demographics.
When asked what advice he would give to people who want to be more involved in their communities and make more of a difference, Bradley said people need to be more proactive about creating opportunities for others to succeed. Using Outland and First Nations as an example, he emphasized the idea that youth in his community should feel empowered to succeed rather than discriminated against, and that providing opportunities for accomplishments and pride are strong ways to propel these changes.