Henry Mianscum is the director of Cree Human Resources Development (CHRD) for the Cree Regional Authority, a position he has held for almost seven years.

The Nation: The first job fair was held in Chisasibi and the second was held inland in Mistissini.

Mianscum: Yes, we’re hoping to continue that idea of alternating between inland and coastal sites. It’s a lot of work and by the time we can plan the third one there is little time left so we are considering having the job fairs every two years to give it the best planning and development possible. We haven’t decided this yet but definitely the job fairs will continue.

You have a lot of different businesses here.

We’re very appreciative we have so many different businesses at the job fair. We had 30 and had only hoped for 15 or 20. We are very thankful and fortunate that there were so many people committed to helping our young people find an interest and perhaps a career in their fields.

So this is an investment for the future?

Well, it is. The one in Chisasibi had people who pursued careers in one of the companies or organizations exhibited. It reached a certain number of youth and we’re hoping to do the same thing here in Mistissini.

I was reading a report from Statistics Canada that said the number of Aboriginal youth who don’t achieve a high school diploma is basically unchanged from the last census. Is this something you are trying to change by interesting youth in careers and knowing there are careers out there?

Yes, very much so. If you look at the recent statistics of the Cree School Board you’ll know they are facing a huge challenge in improving the academics programs in the Cree communities. That’s their domain but what we are trying to do is find an alternative option for these people who dropped out of high school. What we are thinking is that through the career fair they will have an opportunity to pick up one or two brochures that will show them there is a possibility to become plumber, a police officer, a game warden or whatever. That’s a choice they have to make.

I would just like to mention that very recently we at the CHRD made a proposal to the CSB that involves the Cree apprenticeship or trades strategy program. We’re trying to gain their interest so they’ll support that program. That way we will capture that clientele that have dropped out of school. So there would be an option for people to come back to school in a vocational or technical setting. We can help provide that support with them. We can’t do it on our own as we need the pedagogical mandate of the CSB. So that is something we are trying to do. Everything has come out of the career fairs.

So you see this as a step towards the future ?

I would say it is a different step in a different direction that we should be focusing our resources on. The CHRD is prepared to make that change and lead the change. We are looking at getting our leaders to support that direction where we will be focused on our clients’ interests differently than in the past. If we do that then we will have more accomplishments by individuals going into any field of their choice. When they graduate they will be professionals in that trade.

In our present stage we are in a project-driven program in which we try to create employment and training programs for our people, but there is no guarantee that these people will have a permanent job or career when everything is completed.

We want to optimize the use of our dollars and have something very positive for our youth to fall back on as a career. So career fairs such as this provides a beginning of their decision to change the direction of their lives.

I’ve noticed you have a lot of very good motivational speakers lined up too.

Well, you know it’s mostly the youth who can motivate the youth. That’s something we are trying to achieve. I think a lot of the elderly professional people are here to support the youth because we have walked that same path before.

There are more opportunities today than there were 15 years and more ago. That’s why it is important to optimize the services or capacity building of any program for our young people is something we all strive for. But it must be realized it is up to the youth to make the first step. We’re just there to support their actions.

Who’s your keynote speaker this year?

I haven’t met Chief Clarence Louie yet. He’s from out west and a very well known person in the sense he took his community, which had the highest unemployment rate, to today with the lowest unemployment rate. His community had zero economic development and now has one of the highest in the country. It’s quite a remarkable story and my hat goes off to him.

There’s John Kim Bell?

Yes, he’s a symphony orchestra leader and a well-known international figure. He started up the Aboriginal Role Models campaign. He’s a vice-president of an international multi-billion dollar company. I feel he’s going to be a great motivational speaker. We’re very grateful to have him.

I feel that all the speakers, exhibitors and participants have made this fair a huge success. The CHRD is very pleased with what is happening here. It was due to a lot of hard work on many people’s part to make it the success that it is.