The first-ever Regional Job Fair organized by the ==^ Cree Human Resources Department and held in Chisasibi, brought out many youth looking for a way to brighten their future by exploring jobs that interest them. High school students and adults alike were able to tour the booths, ranging in interest from an Apparatus Electrician with Hydro-Quebec, to jobs in health, to a career as a police officer.
Set up on the top floor at the Mitchuap Auditorium, the fair attracted about 250 youth and young adults from March 13-15. Application forms were available to those wishing to apply to the various jobs available.
A host of guest speakers, role models and interesting presentations helped to keep the event flowing rather smoothly. Humour was the theme of the week as event emcee and reputed comedian Stan Wesley left the crowd in stitches introducing Rodney Hester, the outgoing representative of the Secretariat to the Cree Nation.
“I loved three men in my life, my grandfather, my fatherand ‘Hot Rod’ Rodney Hester,” Wesley told the wildly amused audience. His bit about Deputy grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff starting a boy band was… well you had to be there.
The fair was as much about potential as it was about jobs and that point was hammered home numerous times. “There is so much potential amongst our Cree Nation youth,” said Hester. “Pursue your dreams, don’t stop dreaming. If you can’t find someone to motivate you, motivate yourself.”
Dr. Darlene Kitty has been practicing for over a year at her hometown Chisasibi hospital. In her power point presentation she mapped out what students need to do to prepare themselves for college life in general. She went over the often-confusing act of filling out an application form properly when applying for college. She also stressed the importance of “making time for yourself.”
Dr. Kitty spoke to the Nation afterwards and her message was clear.
“I want to tell the youth that they can do anything they set their mind to,” she said. “I went through a rough period in my life when I lost my twin sister while I was at school. Her death just made me want to try harder so I could do it for her and for myself.”
Dr. Kitty admitted that she had her share of hard times in school and sometimes felt isolated and lost. But having a role model like the late Dr. John Big Canoe really kept her going. “He was always encouraging me to go farther, especially when I was trying to get into medical school,” she said.
Sadly, Dr. Big Canoe died in a boating accident a few years ago. She regrets he never had the chance to see her become a doctor. Dr. Kitty has two inspirational messages written on the back of the pamphlet she handed out, one of which was relayed to her by her late role model.
It reads: “Don’t give up! Don’t listen to pessimists! Ambition, motivation and determination are important in achieving anything you want to be!”
Dr. Kitty currently sits on the board of the Indigenous Physicians of Canada as secretary. She sees it as a way of giving back as it is set up to help more Aboriginal students | get into medical school.
She is also bridging the gap between non-Cree and Cree -, culture as the Medical Student Residence Coordinator for McGill University. She helps to organize rural family medicine rotations as a way to introduce more health professionals to Cree culture, Aboriginal health and the challenges faced in remote communities.
The theme of the job fair – “Plan today…for a brighter! tomorrow” – could not have been more fitting for Mistissini’s Kim Quinn. Currently working as the Master-Teacher at the Voyageur Memorial Elementary School, Quinn shared her story about the hardships of moving;, away to pursue a dream at Harvard University.
“I hoped to get the kids to look inside themselves and find their passion and see what they’re excited about. It has to be something that they really love,” she said.
She said that kids are sometimes pushed towards a certain vocation due to pressure placed on their backs by parents or other students.
She said that it doesn’t really matter if a student is unsure of what he or she wants to do in life. Her own story affirms that.
Quinn changed her career path a couple of times, including a brief pursuit of an MBA and an early fascination with language acquisition. “That’s when I started finding out what I was interested in and switched,” she said. “The great part about it is that I don’t think of it as wasted years. I think it was a great way for me to really figure things out. I don’t regret it at all. If kids are going to take a few years to figure out what they want to do, that’s fine. But if they know what they want to do, that’s fine.
But if they know what they want to do right away, that’s fine too.”
When asked if she ever wished she chose a different path, she quickly answered, “No.”
Willard Petagumskum has been working for Air Creebec for over 10 yeas. He had a strong message for the youth who visited his booth.
“Stay focused, you can achieve anything you want,” he said. “Nothing is out of reach. There are no limits to where you want to go.”
To become a pilot, one must pass a physical test, go through three years of schooling and take four written and practical flight tests with Transport Canada that includes learning how to fly with twoengines. They also must log hundreds of hours of flight time.
But it all pays off handsomely in the end. Petagumskum is qualified to fly a Boeing 747, although he chooses not to.
“With my experience, I was able to achieve the last license that Transport Canada has which is called the Airline Transport Pilots License. I’m fully qualified to fly any machines that I wish to fly, including a 747,” the soft-spoken Whapmagoostui pilot told the Nation, “I love it. I get to meet different people from different cultures in Ontario and Quebec. I’ve also been to 10 out of 14 of the Inuit communities. It’s a fun way to meet different people by greeting them in the plane.”
Although he is qualified to fly elsewhere, Petagumskum is happy to work for Air Creebec. “I like the stuff that we do. Overseas flights are eight to I 2 hours and that’s too long for me, especially with jet lag.”
Youth Grand Chief John Matoush hopes job fairs like these continue.
“It’s a great way to explore ideas and come up with solutions to create employment for the youth,” Matoush told the Nation.
Matoush said the young people of Eeyou Istchee need to experience things for themselves. “They are very visual,” he said. “In order to get the message across, there has to be videos and displayed materials that shows them what’s out there because that’s the way they work.”
Seeing the role models in person is worth a lot to youngpeople, he added. “They get a chance to hear and interact with them and that is important.”
Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff was on also on hand to inspire youth to find their inner gift. “I know I have a gift and a talent and you have the same thing,” he said. He talked about the road he took to become Deputy Grand Chief.
“It has not been an easy road to get to where I am today. I met people saying, ‘You cannot do it.’” But Iserhoff, the former Youth Chief, persevered and refused to let the negativity get to him.
“Don’t allow anyone to discourage you,” Iserhoff continued. “Don’t give up on your dreams. I have a lot of faith in everyone in this room. You have a lot to give, a lot to offer your communities.”
A common theme throughout the fair was a unified message of taking control of one’s life. As Iserhoff emphasized to the young people he met, “They say the youth are the future, but you are here today.”