As a red-seal journeyman electrician, Brandon Oolooyuk is now working for the biggest power consumer in the Kivalliq region and, at other times, for himself.
He puts in his shifts underground at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, looking after newly-installed electrical infrastructure: maintaining electrical systems on the mining equipment, underground wi-fi, radio communications and the electrical distribution system.
“There’s so much,” he said of the site, which was constructed over the past couple of years.
Although Meliadine is a massive operation and much more complex than the electrical installation involved on a housing site, Oolooyuk said the same theoretical principles are still germane.
“There’s certain codes that we have to apply to every job that we do,” he said. “It’s a requirement because of safety also.”
Matt Belliveau, executive director of the NWT and Nunavut Construction Association, said there is tremendous demand for local tradespeople in the North, particularly electricians.
“There’s a huge opportunity out there for the youth who can complete the trades entrance exam and complete their apprenticeships,” Belliveau said, adding that he’s heard stories about companies engaged in “bidding wars” for the services of Inuit electricians.
Oolooyuk got into the profession when he noticed a posting for an apprentice electrician with the Rankin Inlet Housing Association while he was in his final year of high school.
“There was just a job opening and I thought it would be interesting to try and that’s how I got in,” he said. “I’m the first tradesman in my family.”
His first two years of post-secondary schooling were done at the Sanatuliqsarvik Trades Training Centre in Rankin Inlet. He went to Alberta to complete the final two years of the trades program.
When he graduated in 2016, Sakku Investments Corporation hired him to maintain power and electrical systems in their buildings.
About a year and a half later, Agnico Eagle came courting and Oolooyuk accepted a position underground.
“It interested me to try something new,” he said. “It’s a little bit weird at first when you first start and you first go underground and you’re down there for 10 hours a day. Then you sort of get used to it after a few runs and it sort of becomes normal.”
He also started his own business, Oolooyuk Electric, which keeps him occupied during his time off from the mine site.
“I’ve always wanted to be a company owner. I just do little jobs here and there,” he said, adding that the summer construction season brings plenty of work.