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Engineering Aboriginal access program most successful in North America

April 20, 2012 — 

ENGAP studentsThe University of Manitoba’s Engineering Aboriginal Access Program (ENGAP) is designed to provide Aboriginal persons (Status, Non-Status, Metis, Inuit) with access to university studies. ENGAP provides academic, social, and personal supports based on the individual needs of the student.  Successful completion of the program leads to a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering. The University of Manitoba ENGAP is the most successful program of its type in North America.

The program began in 1985 with a mandate to increase the number of Aboriginal people in the engineering profession. This is no small challenge, as it is estimated that Aboriginal people make up less than one percent of Canadian engineers. ENGAP offers an opportunity for Aboriginal students who may not meet the normal entrance requirements for engineering by providing academic upgrading and support. This is done by separating First Year Engineering into two years and using the extra time to upgrade in physics, math, chemistry, and computer science as needed. It is important to note that the graduation requirements for ENGAP students are the same as all other engineering students.

Why are these upgrades needed? Statistics tell us that 50 percent of on-reserve Aboriginal people do not complete high school, and that sometimes a rural or remote education does not offer all the requisite courses for Engineering.  ENGAP has an academic advisor on staff, offers upgrading where needed, and teaches first-year calculus in an expanded time frame, allowing for more contact hours with the professor. In addition to academic advising, ENGAP offers counselling services to assist with the personal and social adjustments of undertaking studies at the university.  37 percent of ENGAP students come from a rural, remote, or northern community and need assistance in finding housing, daycare, etc., in Winnipeg. ENGAP students tend to be a little older than the average university student, bringing with them adult responsibilities. ENGAP’s counsellor is available to provide family and couple counselling, assist in developing and strengthening study skills, and assist with resume writing and interview skills.

“Community is so important to our students,” says Randy Herrmann, Director of the ENGAP Program. “Having someone on staff who is dedicated to our students’ well-being in addition to having a comfortable student lounge space for our students to congregate and study really helps to fill that need.”

As ENGAP looks forward to its 30th anniversary in 2015 it is well on track to have graduated over 100 students of Aboriginal heritage. When you consider that all other similar programs in Canada combined have graduated only a handful of Aboriginal students you begin to grasp the scope of the challenge, and the size of the accomplishment at the University of Manitoba.

Much of ENGAP’s success can be attributed to individuals and corporations who have partnered with the Faculty of Engineering to provide for scholarships and bursaries for ENGAP students, and outreach educational materials. ENGAP staffers travel throughout northern Manitoba not only to “recruit” students to Engineering, but to help teachers engage with students and get them excited about math and science. The implementation of the Aboriginal Science in a Crate Program,  creation of the What Engineers Do and Aboriginal Math Links booklets, and the personal visits to over 30 northern communities and schools each year are tangible testaments to the dedication and passion of ENGAP’s staff.

If you would like to know more about you could get involved in this important program, contact Randy Herrmann, P.Eng., Director of the Engineering Aboriginal Access Program, by phone (204)474-8547 or email.

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