The first Iniuniit (Pathway) Career Fair got off to a solid start on April 30 and May 1 at Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School (JASS) in Baker Lake.

Paula Narkyagik, left of table from left, Josh Wollman and Jessa Earle of the Calm Air presentation station, share a chuckle with Bryce Taipana, right side from left, and Tanya Taipana as fellow Calm Air presenters Jeremy Maley (first Inuk pilot to ever fly with Calm Air) and Hilary Angidlik (Calm Air’s first Inuk flight attendant) talk with others at the Iniuniit Career Fair at Jonah Amitnaqq High School in Baker Lake on May 1, 2019.
Photo courtesy Karen Yip

The idea was hatched in October of 2018 when the Department of People Development decided it was time to try and improve things in Baker.

Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) adult educator Katelyn Proulx said the project’s best chance for success and longevity was to bring-in partners from the community.

She said a strong partnership was needed with other organizations in town.

“We reached out to the hamlet of Baker Lake, Kivalliq School Operations, the community’s two career-development officers and JASS, said Proulx.

“Once we had our working group together, we had a lot of meetings and we, kind of, took on a bunch of tasks with everyone playing a key part.

“Karen Yip of AEM and career-development officer Hilu Tagona were in charge of trying to find people and organizations from Baker Lake, Nunavut and Canada-wide to come to the career fair.

“AEM was tasked with organizing lunch for the presenters, organizing a draw, printing all the promotional materials, and doing career cards for every organization to be collected and brought home.”

When all was said and done, the group had 22 organizations attend the Iniuniit Career Fair, including the University of Manitoba Law, Carlton University, Trent University, Algoma University, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Nunavut Sivuniksavut.

The fair afforded local students a good opportunity to spend time with local companies and organizations such as Arctic Fuel, RCMP officers and numerous other local representatives.

But it also exposed them to universities, to see they do exist and that people do go to them. And having people right there in front of them who could answer their questions made it more realistic for them.

Proulx said there was a good balance of interest among the students between universities, trades training and local job opportunities.

She said Trent University was very popular, but it also had the attraction of virtual-reality glasses.

“There was a good mix of interests, especially among the older

students in grades eight to 12.

“There were some really keen students spending time with the universities and trying to ask tough questions.”

Complete classes going through the Iniuniit Career Fair had about 90 minutes to interact with the presenters.

Proulx said the group had an exit survey prepared for the fair and the event received almost all “happy faces” from the students.

She said there were some students overwhelmed by how much opportunity there was, while younger students were just happy to have time away from class to see something different.

“The Nunavut Trade School in Rankin Inlet didn’t show up for the fair but AEM was there, so we talked about the trades a lot because they have a good trades program.

“There were a couple of key players who didn’t show up.”

Proulx said a number of elders and working-class adults wondered aloud how come they didn’t have this opportunity when they were young and where were career fairs 20 years ago?

She said there was another thing the group did at the first fair that was quite interesting and they’re going to try it again next year.

“We had six local youth who graduated and became successful in their career,” said Proulx.

“They talked with the kids, gave them information on how they got to where they are, told them how their paths weren’t smooth and that it’s OK to make mistakes.

“It was really cool for the kids to listen to their message.”

Proulx said the organizing group would like to see the Iniuniit Career Fair become an annual event.

She said they’ll start advertising earlier next year, probably in September rather than October.

“We’ll reach out to those who didn’t show-up this year, send them some photos, some success stories, and an invitation to next year’s career fair and, hopefully, that inspires them.

“We also held a community event in the evening, which turned into more of a job fair, and we had about 200 to 250 people come out for that.

“It was almost the same as the students – they were just walking around everywhere, not staying in one specific space – but some local businesses had applications out and I know some of those applications went home.”

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