September is inevitability – the summer comes to a close and students head back to school. This routine defines a child’s life until he or she finishes their studies; the routine that comes after isn’t so clear. So, soon after the gleam of a new grade wanes and the grind of school commences, the Cree Human Resources Development plans to give them something to pique their interest.
On October 17 and 18, the 5th Annual CHRD Regional Career Fair will be held at the Youth Centre in Waswanipi, promising a chance to meet employers, research career opportunities, and congregate with likeminded youth and young professionals.
For two days, students will be exposed to an abundance of workplace professionals. And, unlike with online searches or resume submissions, there’s a conversational connection to be forged between employer and potential employee.
“Many of us who are planning this event work with clients on a day-to-day basis who are searching for employment or pursuing training,” said Brendan Forward, a nurse and one of the organizers of the event. “We understand the impact that a face-to-face meeting has on the clients and the value that it has for employers when assessing an application.”
New this year is a series of tours of the Metanor mining site and the local mill, which organizers hope will provide more dynamism to the employers’ showcases. Unsurprisingly, recent political implements are reflected in the fair’s focus.
“For the next 15 years we’ll be focusing on mining, with Plan Nord, and there’ll be a lot of booth exhibits focusing on that,” said Henry Dixon, the fair’s coordinator.
With an expected daily attendance of 400 youth, the fair promises to be a bustling live research session, with each booth providing a possible future for its onlookers. And as with previous fairs, talking shop will be punctuated by motivational and anecdotal guest speakers.
Last year’s attendees will remember the presence of PLEX, whose rousing performance was surpassed by his thoughtful spearheading of a creative-writing workshop earlier in the day.
“We want the youth to feel encouraged by their interests and cultivate the passions they have in life,” said Forward. “It was a moment where the youth felt validated for their interests and we are really proud of that.”
This year, the role model speaker will be Ashley Callingbull from Alberta. The Miss Universe Canada finalist, known as much for her beauty as for her efforts to expand Aboriginal media exposure, will be speaking about resilience and fighting through strife to achieve one’s goals.
An Enoch Cree Nation member and the first Aboriginal to hold a Miss Canada title – she represented Canada at the Miss Friendship International Pageant in 2010 – Callingbull says her life provides some useful and universal lessons for Aboriginal youth.
“I believe it’s important for the youth to meet someone who is relatable and fought for a better life,” said Callingbull by email, in between the rigours of public life. “I [plan to] share my struggles, accomplishments and life-changing moments. It’s a good way to motivate the youth.”
Fair organizers complemented the still-youthful wisdom of Callingbull with the experience of Romeo Saganash. The Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou Member of Parliament will be another speaker at the fair. A third speaker is slated to appear, along with surprises the organizers plan to unveil closer to, or on, the fair weekend.
Despite the assortment of attractions, the fair remains dedicated to career building. Sometimes, this includes the motivational speakers. Previous role model speaker Desiree Petawabano credits her experience speaking at the fair as confirming her self-confidence as a Native leader and revitalizing her faith in her studies. The now-certified nurse is working on a Bachelor of Science at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Forward summed up the organizers’ goal as one of informing and connecting.
“We live in a part of the world that is shifting very rapidly,” said Forward. “Keeping people informed is crucial if they are going to benefit from growth in the mining industry, construction, health services and numerous other fields.”
More information on the career fair is available through the CHRD and local schools.