Lee (Qilak) Kreelak of Baker Lake has always set his goals high in life, and a chance encounter with a tradesperson from the East Coast helped light the way to helping him achieve those goals.
Kreelak, 36, who completed Grade 11 at Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School in Baker, was working at the Meadowbank Gold Mine near Baker as a supervisor for a concrete batch plant in 2009.
There he met a certified electrician from Newfoundland who became interested in his future.
Kreelak said the Newfoundlander asked him what he was going to do after the contract was over and did he have any interest in becoming an electrician.
He said he gave the electrician the same answer to both questions.
“I told him I had absolutely no idea,” said Kreelak. “So he talked to our superintendent about (job) shadowing me for a few days, as things were going slow for me in the batch plant.
“I spent a few days with him and he, pretty much, single-handedly convinced me to get into the trade.
“I’m very thankful he offered to shadow me for those few days.”
It wasn’t long after the Newfoundlander’s offer before Kreelak began the process of becoming a certified electrician.
Nunavut adopted the Alberta curriculum in every trade except oil burner mechanic and Kreelak’s first order of business was to find an employer willing to indenture him.
Kreelak said once that was accomplished and he was signed up, the Government of Nunavut gave him a ‘blue book’ to keep track of his hours.
He said you’re required to work a minimum of 900 hours on the job before getting into technical training.
“Once you’re done your first year technical training, you’re granted 240 hours from in-class training to record into your blue book.
“Years one, two and three are identical when it comes to training, being two months for technical, while the final year is three months.
“It took me four years to get my journeyman ticket. I just recently got my red seal, as I didn’t do the test for a very long time.
“The journeyman ticket allows you to work in your province or territory but, if you get your red seal, you’re basically allowed to work anywhere in the world because Canadian standards are high.”
Kreelak studied at Grande Prairie Regional College and was employed with Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) for about four years. He moved to Lethbridge, Alta., about six months ago with his wife and two sons to do projects for Atco Gas’s pipeline division.
He said he really enjoys travelling around working with the pipeline sites, as he never had the opportunity to do such work before moving to Alberta.
“The fear of not being knowledgeable about a few subjects on these sites came across my mind a few times. But having worked with a guy that’s been on these sites for a very long time kind of helped me overcome them, as he’s an easy guy to approach.
“Always asking him questions has made me more comfortable working here, because he’s all for helping people out.
“I plan to get back working with AEM after I’m done with a pipeline project that I will be taking care of next month. The project may go on until the fall.”
Kreelak said he’s still aiming for the stars, but, overall, he’s happy with where he’s at in life. Living in Lethbridge is a whole different lifestyle for him and his family and, so far, it’s been going very well for them.
He’s a strong supporter of the trades and has an encouraging message for those in secondary school thinking of a career in the trades.
“There’s a whole world out there for you explore.
“Go out, aim higher than you thought you ever could and never be afraid of a setback.”