Palette Skills owes much of its success to its ecosystem of community, industry, and academic partners who help drive our innovative upskilling programs. That’s one reason why Palette Skills was delighted to welcome the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) as a platinum sponsor for our recent “Create, Compete, Commercialize” pitch night held on March 9, 2023, co-hosted by The Knowledge Farm in Saskatoon.
Over 70 people attended the exciting event, which saw participants in Palette Skills’ Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program pitch innovative agtech business ideas to a panel of industry experts for prizes donated by SIIT and other sponsors.
Building relationships that matter
There’s another reason why Palette Skills was so thrilled to work with SIIT as a sponsor for the event, and that has everything to do with its unique role as an innovative leader in providing education for First Nation students and communities across Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies is a First Nations-governed post-secondary institution that has been driving educational change since 1976. SIIT’s programs and courses are designed to meet the needs of First Nation learners, with a focus on cultural sensitivity and respect for First Nation knowledge systems.
It’s a key relationship for Palette Skills, because we believe that the next wave of agriculture in Saskatchewan is digital and Indigenous-led. With a fast-growing population of young people embracing entrepreneurship and innovation like never before, First Nation communities have everything in place to lead the digital agricultural revolution.
Get to know the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies
Since SIIT began as a community college in 1976 with a mandate to provide quality post-secondary education for First Nation learners, the institute has grown to become one of the leading educational institutions in Saskatchewan. In 2000, the Saskatchewan government gave SIIT the authority to grant certificates, diplomas and credits, making SIIT the only Indigenous credit-granting institution in the province. Now, SIIT has a province-wide footprint consisting of three campuses, an aviation learning centre, nine strategically located career and trades training centres, two mobile training units, and over 35 community learning sites.
A critical point of difference with all SIIT programs is that all programs are viewed through a First Nations lens. First Nations ways of knowing and learning are integral to the teaching and learning process, and that helps students connect with their heritage while building a strong sense of identity and community.
A vision for learning
SIIT’s education, partnerships, and direction are shaped by the institute’s vision. That vision directs SIIT to build opportunities for First Nation learners through student-focused, market-relevant programs and services, rooted in First Nation worldviews.
That focus on market relevance and career readiness has prompted SIIT to initiate collaborations with Indigenous communities, organizations, and governments, in addition to other post-secondary institutions and industry partners to build opportunities for student education and employment. At the same time, the institution works closely with Indigenous leaders and elders to ensure that its programs and services meet expressed need, support capacity-building at the community level, and empower First Nation peoples as they take a leadership role in the economic growth of their communities.
Creating training opportunities in plant-based processing
SIIT sees Canada’s plant-based food and ingredients sector as a growth industry for First Nation people across the province. Recently, SIIT developed an innovative micro-credential program designed to give First Nation learners the chance to build skills and take advantage of opportunities in plant-based food and ingredient processing. The program is the result of a collaboration with the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, with a co-investment from Protein Industries Canada, one of the key partners in Palette Skills’ Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program. The micro-credential was developed in partnership with industry stakeholders across the country and includes networking opportunities with business leaders in the food processing sector, First Nation Elders, Chiefs and Council, and youth.
In addition to the program’s core curriculum, these combined experiences mean that students will have the skills needed to take advantage of opportunities in Canada’s growing plant-based food and ingredients sector, at the same time as helping meet the sector’s growing labour shortage.
Mobile innovation and entrepreneurship
Meanwhile, SIIT recently announced the launch of the Pawâcikêwikamik Indigenous Innovation Accelerator, with support from Sustainable Development Technology Canada. Pawâcikêwikamik is a Plains Cree word that means ‘a lodge supporting those who dream’. The initiative is dedicated to empowering grassroots First Nation entrepreneurship and innovation no matter where they live in Saskatchewan.
SIIT believes that First Nation peoples have always embodied both innovation and tradition. The Pawâcikêwikamik Indigenous Innovation Accelerator is designed to help a new generation of First Nation changemakers continue to look for ways to combine traditional knowledge with game-changing ideas, so they can build new opportunities for their peoples and communities.
Through a variety of initiatives – including a newly renovated state-of-the-art MakerLodge space at SIIT’s Saskatoon Campus, a Mobile MakerLodge, an Indigenous Innovator-in-Residence program, access to non-repayable microgrants for Indigenous entrepreneurs to help start or scale their businesses, as well as a variety of community and youth-focused initiatives – Pawâcikêwikamik offers a space for people to explore, create, and collaborate.
SIIT uses two vehicles to bring Mobile MakerLodge initiatives to First Nation communities across the province. From 3D printers, drones, hydroponics towers, virtual reality equipment, and more, the technology kits and training give communities the chance to explore innovative technologies.
Through the SIIT Pawâcikêwikamik Indigenous innovation accelerator, SIIT is able to continue building capacity and empowering First Nation peoples as they assume a leadership role in the economic growth of their communities and share their gifts and teachings with the world.