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Inuit Community Support Worker grads bolster social service workforce

Armed with new skills and knowledge, some recent graduates of the two-year Inuit Community Support Worker and Management Trainee Program are using the lessons they've learned to navigate their way through a world under siege by the Covid pandemic.

Ulaaju Peter, who hails from Iqaluit, missed out on field placement hours because her workplace in Ottawa was among the first to close due to the coronavirus.

The single mom of three children worked diligently, nonetheless, to get her course work and assignments completed, often staying up as late as 3 a.m. She even brought her baby to school with her and said she considered herself fortunate that program staff were willing to look after her youngest child while she studied.

Peter said, “My vision for the future comes from asking myself, 'How do I instill cultural identity and pride in my children outside of Inuit Nunangat?'”

The Inuit Community Support Worker graduating class of 2020, from left, Jonathan Gear, Ulaaju Peter, Ulayuk Komangapik, Carmen Barrieau, Rosie Simonee, Ricki-Jo Cabot, Darlene Gear-White, Alethea Noah, Olooci Taukie and Melinda Shambare.
photos courtesy of Tungasuvvingat Inuit

As a medical interpreter for Ottawa Health Services Network Inc., Rosie Simonee said Covid-19 slowed her down because group work with cancer patients and with others trying to quit smoking had to be suspended due to the threat of the virus. However, her duties with medical travellers continued, primarily at Larga Baffin, where she eases communications between patients and case managers.

Rosie Simonee, originally from Pond Inlet, addresses her fellow graduates and other guests during a graduation ceremony in Ottawa in September. Simonee works as a medical interpreter in the nation's capital.

Simonee said she enrolled in the Inuit Community Support Worker program after seeing an advertisement and figured it could help her further her career.

“My motivation was I enjoy working with people,” said Simonee, who comes from Pond Inlet. “I guess most challenging was writing essays as I was not use to writing my thoughts.”

Administered by Tungasuvvingat Inuit, the Inuit Community Support Worker and Management Trainee program offers a mix of classroom learning and work experience as it strives to increase the Inuit presence in the social service workforce. It's a nationally-accredited and it produced 13 graduates in 2020, some from Ottawa, others from Nunavut and Nunatsiavut.

Among the courses offered were applied suicide intervention skills training, first aid, non-violent crisis intervention and mental health first aid training.

“What makes this particular program unique is that an attempt has been made to remove barriers that stop many people from pursuing post-secondary education,” reads a program overview from Tungasuvvingat Inuit. “For example, the majority of the training is available online, allowing students to work on their own schedule. A laptop is provided to all students to access the learning modules. Transportation and childcare funding is available to students as needed. All students receive a training allowance during year one of the program and the placement opportunities in year two are all paid.”