Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 13, 2014 - 9:57 am

Arviat’s first welder-helper trainees look forward to mining jobs

Ontario college opens new career opportunities in Kivalliq region

PETER VARGA
Northern College Instructor Bruce Fournier, poses with the first graduates of Arviat’s Welding Trade Readiness program. Clockwise from top left: Hallauk Karetak, Derrick Gibbons, Jimmy Pingushat, Louis Jr. Irkok, Jonathan Mukyungnik, Nathan Amarudjuak and René Aggark. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTHERN COLLEGE)
Northern College Instructor Bruce Fournier, poses with the first graduates of Arviat’s Welding Trade Readiness program. Clockwise from top left: Hallauk Karetak, Derrick Gibbons, Jimmy Pingushat, Louis Jr. Irkok, Jonathan Mukyungnik, Nathan Amarudjuak and René Aggark. (PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTHERN COLLEGE)

Mining jobs appear to be plentiful in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut.

Trouble is, there are too few schools and programs in the territory to train Nunavummiut for such opportunities.

The Hamlet of Arviat, however, isn’t letting that hold its residents back from finding employment in their region.

At the end of April, the community celebrated another milestone in its efforts to train residents for the growing industry when seven Arviammiut completed a local welding trade readiness program.

“The hamlet’s been focusing on training, particularly with an eye towards mining industry jobs for about five years, now,” said Keith Collier, community economic development officer for the hamlet.

Students of the eight-week program also got a shot at immediate work opportunities once they completed the course, from Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., which offered welder-helper jobs to the class’s top three graduates at Meadowbank mine in the north of the region.

Instead of creating a school to teach welding and other trades, the hamlet called on Ontario-based Northern College, which specializes in mining, to give the course in the community, with support from the Kivalliq Mine Training Society, Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd., and Kivalliq Partners in Development.

Arviat’s welding trade readiness course follows the success of two other programs set up in the community with Northern College — a diamond-drilling assistant program and a general work-readiness program.

“It’s an introduction to welding course,” Collier said. Graduates have a chance to take on jobs as welder-helpers, in which they would assist certified welders, and have a chance to progress in the trade.

Students learned how to safely operate all equipment involved in welding, as well as how to read blueprints and understand three-dimensional measurements, make calculations for steel-cutting and fabricating, and understand the properties of metals.

The course is not specifically geared towards mining, “but it’s clearly applicable to the mining industry, such as doing repair work to equipment, or mills,” Collier said.

Mining happens to be “the biggest opportunity right now, in terms of people who are looking for workers,” he added. “But with a background in welding, any type of mechanic or fabrication work is always possible. There’s a need for that in the territory.”

René Aggark, one of the top three graduates of the first group to complete the program last month, knows this well.

Even though he has a full-time job at the Agnico Eagle Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake waiting for him this summer, the 38-year-old Arviat resident has noticed two other projects in Arviat that will soon require welders.

“There will be welding needed in town for the new elementary school, and they will be building a new 10-plex house, a big building,” said Aggark. He hopes to take on short-term work on both projects when he’s on break in his home community from two-week shifts at Meadowbank.

Until the start of summer, Aggark is making the most of his time by taking another Northern College programs in his home community — a surface diamond-drilling assistant course.

As one of the top three welder trainees, Agnico Eagle offered Aggark a job at Meadowbank soon after he completed the program.

This came as great news, “because I have seven children and a beautiful wife to support,” he said. “I was very happy.”

Aggark first realized knowing how to weld was important when he was out hunting last year.

“I tried to do welding on my ATV, on the front and back rack,” he said. Then, while caribou hunting some 30 kilometres outside of the community, he discovered the work he’d done didn’t hold up.

“That’s when I realized I needed to learn more about welding.”

Learning to read blueprints and maps proved to be the most challenging part of the course, Aggark said.

“That was the most difficult. It was completely new to me,” he said.

The course’s top three achievers also included Nathan Amarudjuak, 27, who is equally keen to work at Meadowbank. He took the course for similar reasons.

“I need more experience to get a better job to support my future family,” said Amarudjuak, whose wife is expecting their first child. “I never had any experience welding.”

He said he’s looking forward to the on-the-job training that will soon follow.

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