Delegates “Discover the Kitikmeot” at 16th annual trade show
Students shop their resumés and employers network at annual Cambridge Bay event
Special to Nunatsiaq News
CAMBRIDGE BAY — Viola Neeveacheak was nervous at first about making a speech at this year’s Kitikmeot Trade Show.
A high school senior from Taloyoak and youth program delegate selected as a regional role model, Neeveacheak attended the Kitikmeot Trade Show in Cambridge Bay from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11 to learn about new opportunities and gain new skills.
One of these skills was public speaking. Each youth delegate was required to make a speech during the Wednesday morning presentation — a difficult task for a high school drop-out.
When she was in Grade 10, Neeveacheak had a child and was unable to finish school. She had three more children and when her youngest son began kindergarten, she decided to go back to school and try again.
“My children would come home with questions I couldn’t answer,” she explained.
Now 30, Neeveacheak is in Grade 10 again with students half her age. She’s not sure what her future holds, but she was planning to explore possibilities and opportunities at the trade show.
This year marks the 16th year that the Kitikmeot region has held its annual trade show, and the second year in a row that the event was completely sold out; 200 participants attended if you include delegates, special guests and exhibitors.
The trade show has become the go-to networking event for businesses, public servants and Inuit organizations to meet and discuss economic development opportunities for the Kitikmeot region.
“Discover the Kitikmeot,” was this year’s theme.
“That’s tied directly to the discovery of the HMS Erebus,” explained Jim MacEachern, manager of economic development, information technology and communications for the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay.
“All of our presentations from this year are geared around that theme, from various sectors, discovering aspects of the Kitikmeot.”
The number of trade show participants was restricted by the size of the venues in town, but those restrictions actually served as an advantage.
“Instead of an organization sending out five or six exhibitors, they’ll send the president or the vice-president, which means they’re actually sending the decision maker in a lot of these cases.”
This year’s trade show offered a packed schedule of events.
It kicked off with a meet-and-greet session including a welcome speech from Cambridge Bay Mayor Jeannie Ehaloak and entertainment from Nunavik singer-songwriter Elisapie Isaac.
Tuesday night featured a banquet and auction during which Bruce Peterson of Inukshuk Enterprises Ltd. won the Willy Laserich Corporate Citizen Award.
Wednesday offered delegates a range of presentations from a number of sources including Nunavut Tourism, TMAC Resources, the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation, Ocean Networks Canada and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.
A few heavy-hitters made an appearance at the show this year including Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna and Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson.
The popular mid-week trade show floor featured a variety of exhibitors at the Kiilinik High School gym. GN health employees offered late-season flu shots and Nunavut Arctic College students brought along resumés to shop around to potential employers.
Charles Zikalala of the Kitikmeot Driving School was glad he set up a booth. “All these clients signed up during the trade show,” said Zikalala, pointing to a sign-up sheet filled with potential clients.
Many visiting delegates used the trade show to learn more about, and engage with, the local community.
“I’ve had a wonderful time, enjoying the warm reception here,” said Natasha Ewing, education coordinator for Ocean Networks Canada, which is involved in an on-going undersea monitoring and surveillance project with the hamlet of Cambridge Bay.
While in town, Ewing made arrangements to speak to a Grade 9 class as part of their science unit.
And as for Neeveacheak, she managed to overcome her stage fright and speak to a crowded community hall on Feb. 11.
She talked about the lack of job opportunities in Taloyoak beyond local retail and janitorial jobs which pay minimum wage. She spoke about her own plans to finish Grade 12 and her desire to continue with a post-secondary education.
“With all of the obstacles I face,” she said, “I hope to set my goal to be a role model for my children.”
After her speech, several business representatives approached her and invited them to chat at their booths. Her goals may be closer than she thinks.