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Getting paid while learning skills

YESS program offers youth development opportunity
Zoey Duffy, left, poses with other youth in the program Josiah Simik, Robert Innukshuk, Bailey Green, program manager Nikolai Kaustinen, Andrew Owlijoot and Xzavier Kubluitok. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Kaustinen

Good ideas don’t take long to pull together – on the heels of a mental health first aid and non-violent crisis intervention workshop a month ago in Rankin Inlet, one of the asks from youth has already come to fruition.

Ilinniapaa Skills Development Centre hosted a Youth Employment Skills Strategy (YESS) week-long training session at the drop-in centre early May, and the program is set to continue throughout summer.

“This is all about learning new skills and developing things in a fun and engaging way, for youth, by youth,” explained Nikolai Kaustinen, program manager with Ilinniapaa.

The week began with insights discovery, a personality assessment tool that helped youth learn more about themselves and each other and how they view the world.

“When we started the insights journey … a lot of youth weren’t too sure how they fit,” said Kaustinen, adding that as the course progressed, many early assumptions youth made changed.

Youth also completed Food Safe Level 1 training, as well as learning how to interview for jobs, write resumes, and create cover letters.

Kaustinen said one of the youth had dropped off some resumes and already received interview interest, which is exactly what Kaustinen is after.

“The ultimate goal of the program is to help them find work placements, at which point they would be guaranteed $21 an hour and the employer would actually receive some wage reimbursement,” he explained, noting the program is funded by the Government of Canada.

Youth also received $16 an hour to participate, and four were on their way to be trained up as facilitators of the program throughout the summer. They will administer the program three times a week – Wednesday and Thursday evenings, along with midday on Saturdays – for any youth who want to develop their skills and get paid to do so.

Bailey Green was on her way to becoming one of the youth facilitators. She was hesitant to participate in the YESS program at first but gave it a shot on the suggestion of a friend.

“It’s been going pretty well,” she said. “It’s pretty interesting. All the information they’ve been giving us is very useful for the real world.”

She’ll be graduating in 2023 and looks forward to putting her newfound skills to use.

“It teaches you a lot of things that could help you in the future if you’re looking for a job or looking to go to school,” said Green. “It can give you a good idea of what you want to do.”

Kaustinen said the seven youth who participated were excellent.

“I do think that resume writing and cover letter writing was something new to most of the youth who were participating, so of course there are challenges that come along with new things, but they’ve all gone through those trainings fantastically well,” he said.

The summer training sessions will also include teaching traditional skills, like building a qamutik, drum dancing, Inuit games and more. Kaustinen hopes to include lessons on sexual health, intimate partner violence and to partner with the RCMP. The courses will be running three days a week at the drop-in centre, with a break in the middle of summer before resuming close to the new school year.

Any interested Indigenous, LGBTQS youth or those with disabilities ages 15-30 can show up to the drop-in centre with their SIN Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., or Saturdays at 10 a.m, or email

Kaustinen thanked the hamlet, fishery, Co-op and Home Hardware for their donations to the project.

Bailey Green, left, Josiah Simik, Xzavier Kubluitok, Robert Innukshuk, Andrew Owlijoot and Zoey Duffy point out where each is on a personality chart. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Kaustinen
Zoey Duffy and Josiah Simik learn safe food preparation. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Kaustinen