Baffinland creates job-shadowing apprenticeship for Inuit

“Once you train somebody they are able to go anywhere.”


A new job shadowing program at the Mary River mine is helping 14 recently trained Inuit to get apprenticeship experience. (FILE PHOTO)

A new job shadowing program at the Mary River mine is helping 14 recently trained Inuit to get apprenticeship experience. (FILE PHOTO)

Fourteen more Inuit are now on the payroll at the Mary River mine, working as apprentice trades assistants.

For six months, these new apprentices will job-shadow carpenters, electricians, plumbers, welders and the like at the North Baffin mine, owned by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.

When they’ve finished, they’ll be able to write their trades entrance exam.

“Pending successful enrollment in their respective trades programs they will become full-time, permanent apprentices at Baffinland,” QIA said in a March 6 release.

The new apprentices are fresh out of the Qikiqtani Skills and Training for Employment Partnership, or “Q-STEP,” a program launched last fall by the mining company and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.

It’s the first time Baffinland has ever run such an apprenticeship program.

The apprenticeships are aimed at keeping Inuit fully employed by the mining company while they complete their education and become certified in trades.

QIA President P.J. Akeeagok said this on-the-job training opportunity is an important step in making sure that more Inuit can secure mining jobs in the Baffin region.

Currently, the QIA is reviewing the existing Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement it signed with Baffinland, to make sure targets are met and are beneficial for Inuit.

Areas to be renegotiated within the IIBA could include Inuit employment targets.

“Q-STEP will be an amazing example we could reference as we negotiate, to show how many Inuit we can train and get employed,” Akeeagok told Nunatsiaq News during a recent QIA board meeting held Feb. 28 in Iqaluit.

“Once you train somebody, they are able to go anywhere.”

Inuit employment rates at the Mary River mine reaches 20 per cent in 2016—not far off from the initial target 25 per cent—but that number took a dive down to 12.5 per cent in early 2017.

Since then, the QIA and Baffinland have been making efforts to turn that number around.

During an annual general meeting in October, the QIA said the current employment gap represents about $9 million in lost wages for Inuit, and that it wants to see the agreed upon 25 per cent Inuit employment target achieved by 2020.

In the apprenticeship program release, Baffinland CEO Brian Penney said that this new job-shadowing program should help the mine to make more training and employment opportunities available to Qikiqtani Inuit.

Because the apprenticeship’s feeder program, Q-STEP, is funded in part by the federal government, the Liberal minister of employment, workforce development and labour, Patty Hajdu, also weighed in on the announcement.

“Young Indigenous people are the fastest-growing part of Canada’s population, and it benefits us all to ensure they have the skills and training they need to find good jobs,” Hajdu said.

“Breaking down barriers to employment will help grow our economy in a way that gives everyone a real and fair chance at success.”

The QIA aims to train 360 Inuit through Q-STEP by March 2021.

The $19 million that funds the four-year program comes through a $7.9 million federal contribution, along with $9.4 million from Baffinland and $1.6 million of in-kind support from the Kakivik Association.

The Government of Nunavut contributes operations support.

Recruitment efforts for the Q-STEP training program and the new apprenticeship program will work in part through a new Inuit labour pool called Tuttarvik, recently developed by the QIA.

If you want to get your name in that pool for employment opportunities with Tuttarvik, you can register by emailing the QIA at [email protected].

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