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New program to train Inuit to be bureaucrats

There's a renewed effort to train Inuit bureaucrats to fill some of the many government vacancies across the territory.

Cecile Lyall of Taloyoak is one of six students enrolled in a 17-month public administration program at Carleton University in Ottawa, an effort to help fill government vacancies in Nunavut.
photo courtesy of Cecile Lyall

Six students who have graduated from the Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) college program's second year of Advanced Inuit Studies will be at the vanguard of the Academic and Career Development Program offered through Carleton University starting this fall. Those who complete the 17 month of courses and two work placements in federal government departments in Ottawa will earn a certificate in Nunavut Public Services Studies.

A similar initiative existed in 2008 but it fizzled out. Although the course material will be the same, other changes have been made, said Morley Hanson, a longtime instructor with NS, which is coordinating the public service program.

"The method of delivery will be completely different, and our supports for the students will be constant," Hanson stated of the mentorship and personal coaching that will be incorporated. "We fully expect that the number of students will increase with each future round – just as we expect that the number of placement options will expand as well. We're starting small just to make sure all the pieces work smoothly before we bite off more."

Taloyoak's Cecile Lyall is one of the students who has enrolled. In addition to completing NS, Lyall attended Red River College in Winnipeg where she recently attained a business administration diploma with a specialization in accounting. She became intrigued after reading the program outline.

"It really embodies what our government is trying to move forward to – having a lot more Inuit involvement," Lyall said. "I feel like regular university and college courses do not offer that specialized Northern perspective. Education I think is needed for individuals to go into that field of work."

Lyall, 25, said she isn't intimidated by life in Ottawa or taking classes at a large institution like Carleton.

"I feel like Ottawa has a really large Inuit community... so I feel a lot more connected in Ottawa than I did in Winnipeg," she said.

The Inuit workforce within the GN sat at 50 per cent as of March 2018, the latest report available from the territorial government. There were also 1,320 vacant positions at that time. The 50 per cent barrier is where Inuit employment has stagnated for years.

The Nunavut Agreement's Article 23 identifies a representative level of Inuit employment in government as an objective. That would amount to 85 per cent Inuit workers.

"We want to see more Inuit in the public sector to ensure Inuit are leading Nunavut at all levels, and education and experience are the key to realizing that goal," said Jesse Unaapik Mike, chair of the NS board of directors. "This new third year will be another way for NS to support its graduates to help make it happen."