Helping First Nations obtain their driver’s license is something the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation hopes will help address unemployment.
According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in the Bulkley Nechako Regions is 12.3 per cent, double the provincial average.
Ed Clayton Chief Financial Officer said they believe the number of unemployed indigenous people is even higher.
“We think there is a major untapped resource in the native population and the biggest barrier for them to participate in that job economy is a license.”
Clayton said they estimate that 75 per cent to 85 per cent of Indigenous adults living on-reserve in the region do not currently have a driver’s license.
“We finalized the (request for) funding and are waiting for the response to see how those proposals went. The indications are that they are very supportive and funders would like to see it go forward.”
Currently, the closest driving school and test centre are located over 2 hours away in Smithers.
“We just held a little (temporary) driving academy here recently, and out of 11 students nine of them have passed which is pretty significant.”
A 2017 report by Statistics Canada said 44 per cent of First Nations in British Columbia were more likely to say not having the means of transportation to get to available jobs made it difficult to find work.
Clayton said once funding goes through, together with the All Nations Driving Academy, they will be able to set up a driving school for everyone to use.
He added the goal is to eventually be able to facilitate the ICBC graduated license tests in Burns Lake.