Sault MPP Ross Romano announced more than $1.2 million in provincial funding for Indigenous student training in the information technology (IT) sector at Sault College on Feb. 7.
The funding will go to PLATO Testing for Indigenous students, to be taught at Sault College.
Established in Fredericton, N.B., in 2015, PLATO (Professional Aboriginal Testing Organization) is a software-testing company with a unique mandate to train and employ Indigenous people as software testers.
The company announced in September it would set up a Sault Ste. Marie office with the goal of creating up to 60 jobs for Indigenous employees.
Testers try out websites, enterprise software, and mobile apps, assessing them for bugs and gaps before a company releases them to market.
"We will be creating 57 jobs right here in our community (through PLATO) to ensure employment opportunities for Indigenous people in this area," Romano said.
"This project will fill talent shortages in the IT labour market and is an example of how we are trying to diversify our local economy and bring prosperity to Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding communities."
Calling the funding "really great news," Dean Sayers, chief of Batchewana First Nation, whose traditional lands are located along the eastern shore of Lake Superior, said his community had been working with PLATO for some time regarding how Batchewana wanted to be involved in the local economy.
"Of course, we want to see even more of our people involved in the information technology sector and we do have the qualified people.
"We have very highly educated people within our communities, not only Batchewana but regionally," Sayers said.
"With a lot of First Nations there is an untapped human resource, which I believe has huge opportunity for companies to invest in so that we can really generate the wealth we know this region is capable of."
Sayers said his community was appreciative of the effort to diversify the region's economy and the opportunity to participate.
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