In a few weeks, the most promising members of Nunavut’s future workforce are heading to Halifax to represent the territory at the annual Skills Canada competition.
We should be very proud of the efforts all of the Skills Canada Nunavut competitors put in year after year to achieve at the school, regional and territorial levels in an effort to make Nunavut proud on the national stage.
But perhaps more importantly, these young people are showing the value of work. Plain old hard work that comes with rewards that can last longer than one weekend in the south – they can last a lifetime.
A lot of commotion is made over the merits of higher education, and it’s absolutely true that the territory needs Inuit doctors, nurses, lawyers, bureaucrats, teachers, etc. This will always be the case.
Not so much is said about the thousands of other jobs that require technical skills, and we’re happy to see youth discover the long-term benefits these skills can bring. Whether it be carpentry or workplace safety, Northern fashions or baking, photography or hairstyling, it’s hard to imagine daily life without people who have the specific skills to support our growing communities.
Employers, too, are clamouring for Inuit who have skills and are ready to learn more.
Last week, we wrote about US defence contractor Raytheon and its demand for Inuit workers at the North Warning System (previously DEW Line) sites. You don’t need a PhD for this work – you need skills or the ability to be trained. (A high school diploma seems to be the minimum standard these days, so stay in school, kids.)
Knowing the demand is there for Inuit workers, we turn our attention to the Government of Nunavut, which relaunched its shuttered Human Resources department last month. Out of the gates, it was only about 60 per cent staffed, and its Inuit to non-Inuit staffing ratio was only slightly better than the GN’s overall 50-50 split.
The government’s goal of reflecting the proportion of Inuit in Nunavut – 85 per cent – has been static at 50-50 almost since Nunavut became a territory.
In fact, as the other large employers – Agnico-Eagle, Baffinland, DeBeers, Raytheon, etc. – line up with well-paying skilled employment ready for Inuit, it’s hard to see how the government can achieve its employment goals.
The GN tends to take the easy route – hiring non-Inuit who come pre-trained. And yet, the government should be going all-in on training, investing as much as it can afford on providing promising – not established – Inuit workers with the training they need to rise up in the GN.
At the moment, if your resume does not include the exact words in the job description, you won’t be considered. It’s time for the GN to take a more progressive, more modern and more effective approach to HR and look for Inuit who can learn how to do the job, not simply hire ‘more qualified’ transient workers.
With credit to Albert Einstein, you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.