In communities across Canada, Indigenous women and gender-diverse people are taking control of their own lives and achieving their dream careers, empowered by NWAC’s Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program and supported by our network of national coordinators from provincial and territorial organizations.

Want to be inspired? These are just a few of the incredible individuals creating a bright future with a hand from ISET.

I first became aware of NWAC’s ISET program when I first went to the Alberta Aboriginal Women’s Society to look into funding for a course I was interested in. The training was a Heavy Equipment Operator Course that was 10 weeks long.

I believe if I had the training it would help me become a more skilled and hirable operator, which it did. The first call I made was to the Interior Heavy Equipment Operator School to talk about cost and available funding, second call I made was to Alberta Aboriginal Women’s Society. It wasn’t long before I was enrolled in the course.

I started the course on January 18 and immediately knew I had made the right choice. The course was so helpful and the instructors knew what they were doing. As well as teaching the students to operate various types of equipment we learned a lot equipment parts, mechanical issues and employability skills.

After the 10 weeks I felt more confident doing what I really enjoyed. As part of a big group of operators I shared my story to them and everyone around me. I am very happy I had the opportunity to take the course and better my resume for my future career. While I was in training I made a lot of career related contacts and plan on staying in touch with them. My plan for the next few years is to hopefully be running equipment in the north, possibly getting a class 1 license for more job opportunities.


My name is Kaila Thompson, I am 20 years old and have recently graduated from NorQuest College as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Ever since I was a little girl it was a dream of mine to become a pediatric nurse.

I started with taking open studies at NorQuest in September 2015. When my first semester was coming to an end, I made an appointment with the Indigenous student councillor at school to find out what my best option was for moving forward. At the time I was financially unable to pay for my own school so the councillor recommended the ISET program through the Alberta Aboriginal Women’s Society to me. I reached out to them and began communicating back and forth about my goal of becoming a Nurse. My application was accepted and the program funded me throughout my whole Licensed Practical Nurse Diploma.

Thanks to this program, I was able to achieve my biggest goal in life, to become a nurse. As I was living in Stony Plain at the time with my mother, driving all the way to Edmonton was just not an option for me anymore with the early mornings or late nights at the hospital. My mom is a single mother so she could not have been able to afford to help me rent my own place in Edmonton so without the help of the Women’s Society, I wouldn’t have been able to move into Edmonton to be closer to school and the hospitals for my clinical.

I have recently got a job at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and I couldn’t be more excited and blessed to be able to work as a pediatric nurse at such a great hospital. Without the Women’s Society I would not be where I am today and I am so thankful that they were there for me throughout my 2-year journey. The Women’s Society has motivated and shown me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I look forward to eventually continuing my education to become a registered nurse in the future.

Entering my final year of training for my environmental science program, my mom stumbled upon the ISET program after contacting the Saamis Aboriginal Employment and Training Association in Medicine Hat. After contacting the program I realized that this was an excellent opportunity.

ISET gave me assurance that I was in a high demand field. I wanted to make sure my final year of training would be very successful and focused. I was prompted to go ahead with the ISET program by a need to be successful in preparing for my future career. My biggest challenge throughout the program was my communication with my advisor; I found it difficult at times to remember that I needed to report back on how my education was going. I think the attendance program was probably the most useful service for me as it kept me accountable for attending classes—and I think that my grades reflected this.

With the help of ISET I was able to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from Mont Royal University. As a former varsity athlete at MRU I was able to recommend the ISET program to a current athlete in hopes that she will be able to benefit as I did. ISET allowed me to apply and eventually begin employment with Alberta Environment and Parks as an Invasive Species Inspector. Once I have completed my summer term with Alberta Environment, I hope to move on to a full time career in the environment sector.

My Name is Kayla Auger and I am from the Woodland Cree First Nations in Alberta. I moved here to Kamloops, BC to become a better parent, sister, daughter and especially a better me. Also for my daughters to get a good education along with myself.

I attended and graduated from The Interior Academy in the Makeup Artistry Program. I completed 90 hours to obtain this diploma.

I wouldn’t have been able to complete or even attend this program if it wasn’t for the BC Native Women’s Association ISET program, I cannot thank them enough. I truly appreciate all their help in that little time frame we had.

Now I am an esthetician and makeup artist at Tips and Toes Nail, Hair Beauty Studio in Kamloops, BC. I highly recommend any First Nations women to this program as they help you and make you feel welcomed no matter where you come from.

I just wanted to thank the Alberta Aboriginal Women’s Society and the ISET program for funding my education over the past two years. I am pleased to let you know that I recently graduated with a 3.6 GPA from the Practical Nurse Program at NorQuest College and now have a temporary license to practice in Alberta. I am very excited to begin working very soon as an Licensed Practical Nurse in the city of Edmonton.

Thank you again for your financial contributions and encouragement! I would not have been able to attend school and be so successful without the funding I received.


My name is Ryan Powder. I am from Conklin, Alberta, and am of Métis heritage. Over the past two years, I was enrolled in the Natural Resource Technician (NRT) program at Portage College in Lac La Biche.

After receiving my high school diploma, my plan was to enroll myself in the NRT program for two years to receive the NRT diploma and have the title of an environmental technologist. I faced the challenge of finding income or financial support. I was considering working part time while I was in school, like many other college students do, but I also wanted to devote myself to my studies. In order to achieve giving all my time to learning and studying, I decided not to work and I started to look into funding programs for Indigenous people.

For the first year I applied and received funding from Rupert’s Land Institution, which was great, then I was told that Rupert’s Land only funds students for so many weeks, and my time was up. My counselor at Rupert’s Land Institution then told me about the Alberta Aboriginal Women’s Society ISET program, and that if I applied with them then they may be able to help me with funding for the last year of my studies.

My counsellor at Rupert’s Land then helped me connect with AAWS and apply with them. Right off the bat I dealt with Debra Schapansky, who helped me out greatly. Debra got me set up with AAWS to get funding for my last year. The money I received went into living allowance like, food, gas, bills, as well as to school costs like tuition and books. I am very grateful for the help I received from AAWS and recommend them to Indigenous women that wish to fulfill their dreams but have a financial barrier in the way.

With the help of AAWS I was able to focus, finish my studies, and I got my NRT Diploma. I am currently employed by an environmental company near my home town, and I thank the Alberta Aboriginal Women’s Society ISET program.

My name is Norma, I was born and raised in Gesgapegiag First Nation community by the Gaspé Coast. I came from a large family.  At our family gatherings my grandmother would cook our traditional meal.  I was always excited for that day and couldn’t wait to help her out as she always inspired me!

Through the years I tried many different occupations, but I wasn’t enjoying myself at any of them, so I decided to attend a career day. That’s how I found out about the Professional Cooking Program at Pearson School of Culinary Arts in Lasalle, QC. My husband and I drove nine hours for me to attend an interview session – that’s how bad I wanted to be in this program. The day when I got accepted my family and I couldn’t be happier to start my new career!

Moving to Montreal not knowing anyone was a bit challenging but we were all ready for it.

Only a month before I became a student I lost my husband to a tragic circumstances and I faced several challenges but I had to be that stronger person for us.

I was scared that I wouldn’t succeed and waking up every morning worrying about how I would manage to get through this alone as a single mom of five kids. Having to drop everyone off to school, daycare services and then attend all my classes, it was very exhausting at times. Some days were harder than others but I never gave up. I had to be that role model for my kids and to show them that anything is possible if you put your mind in place and focus on what you want in life. I graduated in 2017 with my kids by my side!

After graduating, I decided to continue at Pearson in the Cuisine de Marché program. I was honored by the Lester B. Pearson School Board for continuing my education, my hard work, my dedication and passion. I was also selected to participate at La Rencontre des Grandes Chef at the Chateau Frontenac In Quebec, to represent my M’iqmak community.   I’m so overwhelmed with all these amazing opportunities and experiences I’ve done!

My journey hasn’t ended just yet, it has only started.