Indigenous students are an important part of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s community

Billy Jean Cote, from Cote First Nation, pursued her welding certificate at Sask Polytech.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic is committed to the renewal of relationships — miyo wahkohtowin — with our Indigenous communities. Since 2013, Sask Polytech has celebrated Indigenous student success every month by sharing a role model story on its annual calendar, on and through social media. Over the years, the school has shared more than 100 Indigenous student success stories, including some about Indigenous students and graduates in the heavy construction industry. 

These stories recognize the importance of Indigenous peoples throughout Sask Polytech, within our home communities and to Saskatchewan’s economy.

Take father and daughter duo, Dave Martin and Desireé Martin, from Moose Jaw. As a child, Desireé remembers being at her father’s Sask Polytech convocation ceremony and thinking to herself, “I’m going to be up there one day.” She realized that goal in 2020, graduating with her own welding certificate.

The journey hasn’t always been easy for the Métis woman. “I struggled with personal issues, but the impetus for me to overcome them was so I could be well, and do well in my program. I used all the Sask Polytech services I needed to succeed. I’ve grown so much as a person in my time here,” said Desireé.

She has a good role model in her dad, Dave Martin, who enrolled in welding apprenticeship training with the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC) when he was 38 years old.

“I wanted to show my children that you just never give up,” Dave said recently. 

It’s not easy to focus on schoolwork when you’re raising a family. But he was determined to set an example for his kids. Dave went on to get his Interprovincial Red Seal ticket and has worked in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. 

“If I could go back in time, I would have started at Sask Polytech sooner rather than wait until my late thirties. But I also tell people that you never stop learning—I learn something new every day,” said Dave.

Father and daughter duo Dave Martin and Desireé Martin of Moose Jaw both completed welding certificates at Sask Polytech.

“Nobody can stop you from following your dreams,” added Desireé. “Hard work pays off; the harder you work, the better the results.”

Billy Jean Cote, from Cote First Nation, also pursued her welding certificate at Sask Polytech. Talking with her adult education instructor at Parkland College one day, Cote remembers her saying that her experience at Sask Polytech was one to remember. That sounded encouraging, so she began exploring the various programs offered at Sask Polytech before enrolling in the welding program. 

Cote also signed up for the summer transition program, which took place a week before the start of the fall semester. “The summer transition program is my favourite memory,” she recalled. “I met a lot of people and got a lot of information about Sask Polytech.” 

As her program got underway, Cote was happy to see all the student support services available. “I liked having help to pursue my goal,” she said. “The instructors were really nice and tried their best to help in any area I was having trouble with.” 

Welding is a one-year certificate program with a focus on practical learning. Cote spent almost 75 per cent of her time in the shop, learning hands-on from experienced instructors. That inspired her to set a goal of working for Seaspan, a marine business that operates shipyards, ferries, tugs and barges on the West Coast. 

Cote has some inspiring words for anyone starting out on their educational journey: “Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and stay optimistic. Believe in yourself. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle. Never give up. You’ll thank yourself one day.” 

Sask Polytech’s Indigenous Student Success Strategy is an institution-wide strategy to provide Indigenous students with a variety of services that enhance the learning experience and remove barriers to success. As part of the strategy, Sask Polytech has reserved seats in all programs and 200-plus student awards for Indigenous pupils. Advisers and coordinators are available to help students settle into school life. 

To learn more about Sask Polytech’s Indigenous student supports, visit