NEWS: Ottawa June 12, 2018 - 11:30 am

New program aims to better connect Inuit with social services in Ottawa, Iqaluit

Tungasuvvingat Inuit looking to train 50 Inuit community support workers


If you are passionate about helping your community and are looking for a new career, you could be in luck. The new Qanuininnirmut Ikajuqtiit program is looking for students who want to become Inuit community support workers in either Ottawa or Iqaluit—or both.

This new training program, designed by Tungasuvvingat Inuit in Ottawa and funded through the federal government’s Skills and Partnership Fund, will train students broadly for a wide variety of entry-level social service jobs in both cities.

These workers will play a wide range of roles, from helping to operate a soup kitchen to attending to the needs of elderly Inuit in hospital to connecting homeless youth to social services.

Students will also learn how to write funding proposals and practise tasks related to human resources, supervision and budgeting.

The program aims to improve the delivery of community services to Inuit, such as trauma and victim services and counselling for substance abuse and mental wellness.

The program is designed to ensure that there are more Inuit working in the social service sector in Ottawa and in Iqaluit and the broader Qikiqtani region, said Caleb MacDonald, the skills and partnership fund coordinator at TI.

“There is just a lot of movement between the two regions for living reasons and for services, so if someone starts the program in Iqaluit and has to move to Ottawa for whatever reason they can continue with the program and vice versa,” MacDonald said.

An information session was held on Wednesday at Iqaluit’s Ilinniapaa Skills Development Centre; however, only three people showed up.

The training program is looking for a total of 50 students this year, with 25 students to train in Ottawa and another 25 students to train from the Qikiqtani region of Nunavut.

Although TI has started receiving applications for the program, there are still a lot of spaces available.

“The message we are trying to get across is that if you are interested in the program just apply. And the sooner the better,” MacDonald said.

All applicants must be Inuk, over 18 and be able to pass a vulnerable sector test, which is similar to a criminal background check.

While designing the program, TI spoke with many non-profit and social services organizations that serve Inuit clients to find out what roles they would like to see entry-level community support workers play.

One answer they heard was that Inuit need more help connecting with social services available in both regions, said MacDonald. Examples include Inuit clients seeking help applying for social housing, education funding or counselling.

“Because there is so much movement between Nunavut and Ottawa for services, understanding those systems in both places really helps people get connected with the services they need,” MacDonald said.

The two-year training will begin in September and run the length of the typical school year, with 1,500 hours in total. The first year will be mostly online with some in-class sessions, where the students are taught community work skills.

In the second year, the students will get placed into the workforce to gain practical skills experience.

“Since there is a whole year of placements, it also gives students flexibility if they find out a specific area is not right for them,” MacDonald said.

That means if, for instance, working in elder care doesn’t seem like a good fit, a student could switch over to another placement, such as working at a soup kitchen. The goal, said MacDonald, is to have everyone eventually “really keyed into which type of job they really want.”

Another unique thing about the program is that the students get a training allowance in the first year.

“It is basically like you are being paid a minimum wage salary to go to school,” MacDonald said.

In the second year, TI will pay a wage subsidy, so that student receive at least minimum wage.

Students even get a laptop to use for their studies, and there is a childcare subsidy for those who need it.

Since at least 75 per cent of the courses will be available online, anyone who might be concerned about childcare standing in the way of continuing their education should not be discouraged.

“If you need to hire a babysitter for those three hours an evening, to find time to do your coursework, then that funding is for that,” MacDonald said.

Anyone interested in applying can contact the Ilinniapaa Skills Development Centre to make an appointment to go in for information and to fill out the application form. The Qanuininnirmut Ikajuqtiit website offers more information, as well as MacDonald’s contact details for those who have any questions.