By Regan Treewater
(ANNews) – The Oteenow Training and Employment Society has helped match employers with First Nations and Inuit job-seekers from metro Edmonton and the greater Edmonton area since 1992. Their mission is “to connect First Nations and Inuit people who live in Edmonton and area, and who are ready for meaningful careers, with a wide range of employment and training programs, services, and opportunities so that they can become self-reliant and lead productive lives.”
On a drizzly grey October morning, the Edmonton Northlands Expo Centre conference room was a buzz with activity and the excited chatter of job-seekers. Armed with small heaps of resumes, and dressed in their interview ready best, they set forth in search of new opportunities. Organized into neat rows of booths with uniform fold-out tables, each potential employer displayed stacks of fanned-out brochures, job applications and customary conference swag. Cautious at first, but soon seized by eagerness and determination, people began to slowly weave their way through the room.
Oteenow believes that, “Good work matters – it enriches the lives of employers and employees alike.” The types of potential employers participating in the job fair were quite varied: Service Canada, The River Cree Casino and Seven Lakes Oilfield Services among them. In addition to traditional jobs, Oteenow’s event presented guests with a wealth of information about continuing education and training programs. At the Red Seal Program’s booth, visitors learned the ins and outs of Canada’s journeyman certification process and the heights to which such a credential could take them. At the Alberta Indian Investment Corporation’s booth aspiring entrepreneurs learned about how AIIC could help them open their own business through five-year loans. Faces lit up as barriers came tumbling down and new opportunities presented themselves.
One of the most popular tables at the event was the NorQuest College booth. As the colourful glossy pages of the NorQuest 2018/19 catalogue flipped open, booth attendants were inundated with questions. Patrons began to envision themselves in the showcased careers, and for a crowd gathered to hear about the Flight Attendant Program, imaginations took flight. Graduates, they learned, would not only receive comprehensive vocational training, but would additionally earn their Certified Guest Services Professional designation and their nationally-recognized Food Safety and WHMIS certifications. As testament to their commitment to post-graduation career placement, booth attendants explained that a key part of the Flight Attendant Program is the ongoing interview and resume building support. Others were captivated by the Hospitality Management Program, realizing that this title was not just a euphemism for ‘server.’ This track would provide them with basic accounting and financial training, in addition to honing their professional sales and business management skills. These were but two paths from the impressive list of NorQuest offerings.
Tucked away in the corner of the room to accommodate their audio-visual setup was one of Canada’s best kept secrets – the Bold Eagle program. “Bold Eagle is a partnership between the Department of National Defence, First Nations and Indigenous organizations in Western Canada. From its origin in Saskatchewan, it has expanded to allow participation by Indigenous youth from all four Western provinces and Northwestern Ontario. Bold Eagle develops: teamwork skills, self discipline, self confidence and physical fitness.”
A professionally produced documentary being screened at the booth explained how fighting and combat were the last things those enrolled associated with their Bold Eagle training. Many of those interviewed in the film described how they had sought out the program because of the structure it provided. Through Bold Eagle, enlistees are guaranteed their rights to spiritual worship and cultural observance while being taught valuable life skills.
Visitors to the booth were reminded that Bold Eagle is not about recruiting for the military, but for opening doors. Graduates could certainly pursue a career in the Armed Forces, but if not, they would still come away with the character building experiences and mental/physical discipline provided by the program.
Along with dream-building, Oteenow arranged for a drumming performance, a ceremonial prayer, a keynote address by Lyle Donald from their board of directors and Executive Director Roberta Bearhead. Presentations were provided by their professional partners High Velocity Heavy Equipment Training College, Donovan’s Driver Education Ltd. and Tradewinds to Success. After it was all over, visitors to the Oteenow Career Fair filed out of the Northlands Expo Centre; the resumes that once filled their hands were now replaced with brochures and catalogues.
For job-seekers, the day’s activities may have ended, but through the ongoing efforts of Oteenow and their industry partnerships the futures awaiting them just around the corner now appeared more bright and limitless.
Click here for more information about Oteenow Employment and Training Society.