The FNHA’s First Nations Student Program a life-changing experience



Deadline is April 1 for the upcoming May 2024 cohort

After graduating as a medical office assistant in 2023, Ashley Kinkead knew she wanted to work in her community. Although she grew up in Tzeachten near Chilliwack, she felt as though she was losing touch with the people and culture she had grown up with as a youth. Through the First Nations Student Program (FNSP) at the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), she was given the opportunity to gain that connection back.

“I have spoken with Elders and worked with different Nations. I have been part of change and transformation and a small part of the 'boots on the ground' work that the FNHA has to offer," Kinkead says about her five month placement within the Maternal Child and Family Wellness team in the Fraser Salish Region. She also worked within the Wellness and Systems Support team within the same region.

“It's a workplace that truly feels like a family. My hands go up to all the people who have helped me along the way."

Kinkead was one of several students who took part in the 2023 cohort of the FNSP, all of whom brought diverse skills and educational backgrounds to various FNHA teams and regions across the province. The program provides an invaluable working experience for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students in BC pursuing a career in the health care field or a supporting function.  

The objective of the FNSP is to support students' career interests and goals by matching them with available opportunities. There are several potential work areas for students to explore across the organization in regional and corporate teams such as planning and governance, mental health and wellness, human resources and administration, emergency management, health benefits, information technology and more.

The work terms are four months in length and are paid positions.

“This program transcends beyond the scope of a traditional summer job; it is a community that welcomes and mentors you in all aspects of your life," says Karisa Barker, a Métis planning and governance co-op student. “I have not only gained invaluable professional skills, but I have also been able to reconnect and embrace my own cultural heritage."

A large emphasis is placed on students' learning and development, with continuous support, guidance, and mentorship throughout the term. Beyond professional development, the program also includes strong cultural components such as a two-day orientation, Knowledge Keeper participation, tobacco ties, and more.

“I've been able to explore my passions in health care and helping First Nations communities, and I've been given great support and mentorship throughout the program," says Alex du Bourg, a health emergency management student from the Syilx Nation in West Kelowna. “It's truly unique and meaningful to feel so culturally safe in a workplace."

The FNHA is now accepting applications for the May 2024 cohort. Students attending post-secondary (undergraduate or graduate) or recent grade 12 or post-secondary graduates are encouraged to apply.

The deadline to apply is April 1. ​

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