Commitment to apprenticeship is Andrew George’s legacy
If you ask Andrew George to go on a site visit with him, he’ll tell you to “bring runners and wear a seatbelt!” That’s simply reflective of Andrew’s commitment to reach out to communities every day—he is always on the road, meeting people, learning about their needs, and doing what he can to help.
“I’m proud of assisting apprentices on a day-to-day basis and helping them in training facilities,” says Andrew, who has contributed to building the trades profession in B.C. as an Apprenticeship Advisor with Industry Training Authority (ITA). Andrew is leaving ITA in July to become Lead Instructor, Professional Cook with Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) in Merritt. “I’ve enjoyed introducing trades to Indigenous youth and watching them grow. When I first started with ITA, there were only 50 Indigenous apprenticeships, and now there are over 2,800.”
Since joining ITA in 2014, Andrew has been instrumental in increasing apprenticeships in his region:
- Worked with Langley School District 34 to create its Breaking Bread program for Grade 12 students, giving Indigenous and non-Indigenous students an opportunity to learn about basic Indigenous food history in B.C., the life cycle of salmon, Indigenous ways of life, and basic Indigenous cooking.
- Assisted Corrections Canada in getting its training facility designated by ITA, where there are now 300 apprenticeships in the Fraser Valley.
- Worked with Kinghaven and Peardonville House Treatment Centres in Abbotsford to provide men and women with information on how to enter or get back into trades training, leading to a 90 percent success rate.
Andrew has an impressive trades background himself—he’s the first Indigenous Red Seal chef in British Columbia. After earning his Red Seal in culinary arts, Andrew worked as a chef in many high-end hotels, and in 1990, he trained for and competed in the World Culinary Olympics in Montreal. In 2010, Andrew returned to Vancouver and was invited to take over the culinary program at Kla-How-Eya Aboriginal Centre in Surrey and subsequently contracted with Vancouver Community College (VCC) to deliver Indigenous culinary programs on and off reserve. Andrew then became a student himself and earned his Provincial Instructor Diploma from VCC.
“Everything I do is based on my culture,” says Andrew. “I was taught by my parents and grandparents. They are strong on education, whether traditional or western. That’s why I do what I do. I have my feet planted in both worlds. I was groomed by my chiefs and forefathers, and now I’m transferring the knowledge.”
Andrew’s passion for cooking and teaching combined with his desire to build partnerships with training institutions is what led to one of his proudest achievements—the new Indigenous-infused PC1 program at Okanagan College, which is a first for Canada. Andrew’s vision led ITA into a partnership with Okanagan College and Okanagan Training and Development Council, representing eight First Nations communities. Thirty percent of the PC1 curriculum was enhanced with Indigenous knowledge and recipes from the Okanagan First Nations.
“The Indigenous Professional Cook program will do wonders for B.C. and its communities,” Andrew says. “It will really open up tourism and open the door for First Nations students to complete their certification.”
Andrew says he’ll miss the people at ITA and in the community when leaves his position. “I had the opportunity to work with such a diverse and supportive workforce. I’m very proud to be a part of the Apprenticeship Advisor team—it’s probably the best team to work with, and that includes the Olympic team! ITA has grown immensely, and the mandate has evolved. ITA has moved from a business background towards trades training. There are a lot of diverse and skilled staff to take trades training to the next level.”
In his new role at NVIT, Andrew will be creating an Indigenous culinary program outline, with Okanagan College’s support and guidance to develop the field school. “My vision is for NVIT to be the trades training expert both nationally and internationally. This takes me to the next level of my journey in the culinary world,” he says.
He’s also been invited by the Canadian Consulate in the U.S. to speak at the International Culinary Conference in October 2019 about the growing trends in Indigenous cooking in Canada and where trades training is going.
Andrew has spent over 10 years moving towards a truly sustainable training for Indigenous people in the culinary arts. Working on basic training, essential skills, and feeder type programs, Andrew has been dedicated to professionalizing trades training and ensuring students are certified.
Thank you, Andrew, for all your work at ITA and in supporting trades training! We’ll miss you.
Do you know an apprentice or employer champion?
The Champions of Apprenticeship are recognized for their outstanding achievements in BC apprenticeship system. These Champions are celebrated for their hard work in creating certified tradesworkers, supporting their industry and promoting apprenticeship. Do you know an outstanding employer sponsor or apprentice? Send us an email and nominate them to become a Champion of Apprenticeship!