KITCHENER -- A pilot project is pairing tech mentors with Indigenous youth to help create a local talent pool and open doors to future opportunities.

'I'm just grateful for the opportunity to increase Indigenous representation in the STEM fields," mentee Kodiak Jackson said.

Jackson is studying math at the University of Toronto, with an interest in learning about quantum computing.

"That's very much for my personal interest in sort of understanding the highest level of how things interact with each other, how things are interdependent," Jackson said.

Jackson was paired with Roger Melko, a faculty associate at Waterloo's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

"Working with Roger on this sort of quantum physics computational project is an excellent opportunity to keep strengthening that," Jackson said.

"It's just great for me to share my own experiences in my field of physics and quantum computing with a youth who is interested in this," Melko said.

The program is a partnership between Communitech and Anishnabeg Outreach Employment and Training. Its goal is to involve Indigenous youth in the tech industry by matching them with mentors in the sector, based on their skillsets.

While Jackson is learning quantum computing, others can start with the basics of computer programming languages.

"Absolutely required skills to really fuel the next tech boom for us," said Stephen Jackson, CEO of Anishnabeg Outreach.

He said his long-term vision is to expand the program to Indigenous youth on reserves across Canada. There's already a partnership with University College of the North in Manitoba.

"When Stephen explained the scope of the project to me, it really instilled a sense of hope that our students can have sustainable employment wherever they are in our remote northern communities and that is game-changing," said Tara Manych, education director. "We jumped in with both feet and we're learning very quickly. We have a lot of barriers to overcome in this area. There's high levels of poverty, there's no public transportation, access to continuing education is limited somewhat."

Lisa Cashmore, VP of start and scale with Commuitech, said the company will provide whatever support is needed.

"It aligns quite nicely with Communitech and our tech for good core value," she said. "We're running at the same speed that speed of light is where things happen."

Jackson said he's excited to put his knowledge to real-world use.

"That has huge applications, or at least potential applications in industry," he said.