Flagship Inuit job training fund mired in staff shortages
“When I say limited capacity, I mean I’m by myself”
OTTAWA—Two and a half years after Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. received $175 million from the federal government for a fund to help Inuit get government jobs, the corporation that manages the money still isn’t ready to use it, an NTI director said last week at the Northern Lights trade show in Ottawa.
The Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corp. received the $175 million in May 2015, as part of a $255.5 million out-of-court deal that settled a lawsuit NTI filed against the federal government in December 2006.
But Makigiaqta doesn’t have the capacity to handle the 37 applications they received in response to a big request for training proposals it issued in October 2017, which NTI described as “an open call for project concepts.”
“When I say ‘limited capacity,’ I mean, I’m by myself. I’m the only one working for Makigiaqta right now,” Adeline Salomonie, the director of NTI’s Inuit employment and training division, said Feb. 2 during a Powerpoint presentation.
For that reason, Makigiaqta has put off consideration of those proposals until the summer, by which time they hope to have recruited enough people to get the work done, Salomonie said.
“We got approval from the board to actually hire additional staff, and that’s what we’ll start doing very quickly,” she said.
But Makigiaqta is running into a problem that government and private sector employers in Nunavut have struggled with for years: finding suitable workers.
“So we’ve been in the position of trying to staff positions at Makigiaqta. But just like any other organization, whether you’re in government or the private sector, it’s difficult to recruit. We ourselves are facing that challenge right now,” she said.
Last October’s open call is Makigiaqta’s first attempt at finding major training proposals to fund, although in February 2017, the corporation handed out a small amount of money, $3 million, through an invitational tender.
Those funds were sprinkled among 12 organizations. The presidents of two of the organizations that received part of the $3 million, the Kivalliq Inuit Association and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, sit on the corporation’s board.
Also, some of that money went to a Montessori pre-school run by the Ilisaqsivik Society in Clyde River.
Development of the corporation has been slow. NTI announced Makigiaqta’s name and board members in January 2016, 10 months after the lawsuit settlement agreement was first announced in March 2015.
The training corporation’s seven-member board is made up of the president and vice president of NTI, the three regional Inuit association bosses, plus the Government of Nunavut’s premier and education minister.
That means NTI controls five of the board’s seven seats.
In June 2016, NTI produced a “draft framework for the long-term strategic plan,” but no actual plan emerged until August 2017, when the Inuit org’s board approved it.
In the plan, Makigiaqta describes its mandate as “to enhance the preparedness of Inuit for employment,” and sets out four strategic priorities:
• Strengthening early learning systems.
• Strengthening wrap-around supports for success in K-12 and beyond.
• Enhanced and expanded opportunities for foundational skills development for adults.
• Enhanced and expanded opportunities for advanced training (including post-secondary), designed to match existing and emerging employment demand.
The strategy says that nearly all of the Inuit who have the foundational skills to get a job are already working, and places strong emphasis on helping people get those foundational skills.
The federal government’s alleged failure to adequately fund and implement Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement lay at the heart of the 2006 lawsuit that produced the $255.5-million settlement, and the $175-million training fund.
No mention of Makigiaqta by Ottawa panel
But at a panel discussion last week on Parliament Hill with Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, NTI President Aluki Kotierk and Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa, no one mentioned Makigiaqta’s $175-million fund.
NTI organized the Jan. 31 event to promote Article 23 and to discuss a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers that calculates the economic losses inflicted on Nunavut Inuit by low levels of government employment.
The objective of Article 23 is to achieve a level of Inuit employment at the territorial and federal governments within Nunavut that is equal to the proportion of Inuit in the population: about 84 per cent.
But when the panel’s moderator, former Liberal MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell, asked the three panel members for their ideas on what forms of co-operation and collaboration could help advance progress on Article 23, none of them gave specific answers to the question.
Kotierk referred to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report and said governments should accelerate the promotion of Inuit within the public service and provide more training programs.
Bennett heaped praise on that report and said “concrete measures” are needed to reach Article 23’s Inuit employment objective and that all government departments should work together.
She also praised federal officials working in Nunavut, but gave no clear examples of “concrete measures.” She did say there should be more pre-employment training.
Quassa, who negotiated the Nunavut Agreement and signed it with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on May 25, 1993, said implementation of Article 23 requires the co-operation of all three parties, and said the Government of Nunavut is “fully committed.”
He said the GN has “already made great strides” and will continue to offer “meaningful training” to Inuit. He also listed existing training programs at the GN that are already available to Inuit.
That panel discussion was linked to a promotion campaign that NTI has recently launched called “Renu the promise,” with a micro-website at anufuture.ca and a social media hashtag: #anufuture.