Arviat matches community’s needs with mining jobs
"I don’t think I would have taken it if it was offered elsewhere"
ARVIAT — In 2012, the hamlet of Arviat did an informal survey to try and understand what paths its young people were on after they left high school.
The survey found that of the 122 students who had graduated from the local John Arnalujuak high school over the last five years, half had found work or moved on to higher studies.
But the other half were doing neither. And those 122 graduates only accounted for 40 per cent of the community’s young adults in that age group — meaning more than half of Arviat’s teens dropped out of school before graduation.
“That was a bit of an eye-opener,” said Keith Collier, Arviat’s economic development officer. “We put so much emphasis on finishing school, so it was a bit of a shock to see half of those who’d graduated weren’t even working.”
Collier acknowledges that there are few jobs in the community, but says it’s also a question of training and access.
That’s why the hamlet launched a training initiative in 2011, offering a 10-week diamond-driller training program in the community through the Ontario-based Northern College.
Since 2011, the program has produced 43 graduates who are qualified to work as surface diamond-driller helpers.
And about 60 per cent of them are currently employed, Collier said.
The course is considered the flagship program for Arviat’s training initiative, which hopes to prepare local residents for work, particularly in the growing northern mining industry.
“Arviat’s been very fortunate that we’ve had strong relations with Agnico Eagle,” Collier said, referring to the company that owns and operates the Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake as well as the Meliadine project near Rankin Inlet.
“They’ve invested heavily in community training partnerships and it’s done some great things for us,” he said.
Arviat resident Ashton Kablutsiak, 23, took the drillers’ course in September 2012, after graduating from a program at the University of Manitoba.
“I heard my two cousins talk about the course, and it seemed to fit — I enjoy physical work and I like to travel,” he said. “And I don’t think I would have taken it if it was offered elsewhere.”
A few months after he graduated, Kablutsiak’s phone started to ring with job offers from drilling companies.
He went south to work for drilling company Boart Longyear this past summer, and soon plans to return to Yellowknife to work in a diamond mine.
Kablutsiak said the program has given a boost to the community and he’d like to see more local training opportunities like it.
“I have lots of friends who have taken it, and they now have good jobs,” he said.
But the program has slowed this year due to a downturn in the mining industry. Collier said the driller’s course won’t have another intake until May 2014.
In the meantime, the hamlet continues to offer driver training on a regular basis; particularly for class 3 licenses to staff its water and sewage trucks — Agnico Eagle also hires drivers for its two Nunavut mine projects, although the company does its own training.
Collier said the hamlet continues to look at the community’s needs as well as demands in the mining industry.
The Hamlet of Arviat is now working to develop a local welder’s trade readiness program in the new year, Collier said, which will also be taught through Northern College.
“It’s motivation for those who want to work, but don’t quite know where to start,” he said.
Agnico Eagle has already agreed to hire three of the course’s graduates, he added.