By Rick Garrick
FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION—The Fort William First Nation Youth Job Fair was a success with about 300 students in attendance from the community and across Thunder Bay.
“It’s important for our youth — we are trying to motivate them to get their education,” says Fort William Chief Peter Collins. “It is important to us and it is integral to our communities to move forward.”
On December 8, about 28 businesses and organizations hosted industry booths during the Job Fair to provide youth with information about careers they were interested in. Held at the Fort William First Nation Community Centre, the Job Fair also featured a Youth Panel, a Speed Mentoring session and an Industry Fashion Show.
“What we’re trying to do is educate the students that are going to school to try to motivate them into these workforces,” Collins says. “What we want them to learn today is about how they get into some of these job opportunities that are being presented here.”
Collins says the Job Fair was open to students at high schools across Thunder Bay to attend.
“We would like to give every kid in the city the opportunity to have a job and give them that hope and inspiration,” Collins says. “There are a lot of opportunities for our young people, everything from electrical to plumbing to carpentry to machine operations to concrete work to whatever they want. We want people to be lawyers and judges; we want them to be doctors and nurses.”
Stan Wesley, master of ceremonies and a national speaker originally from Moose Factory, says the goal of the Job Fair was to help youth find a path forward.
“Let’s start taking steps into the future,” Wesley says. “In order to do that, we need to know where we’re going, and this activity we are having, in my opinion, will definitely help these young people moving forward to the future.”
Ginger Randle, Fort William’s employment and training coordinator, says it was important to share knowledge and information with the students and encourage networking among the students and business and organization representatives during the Job Fair.
“We’ve also been asked to do a follow-up for a professional development fair where they sit down and do cover letters and resume development,” Randle says. “So that is something we’re looking at in the next couple of months.”
Shane Fugere, a regional organizer with LiUNA (Labourers International Union of North America) Local 607 in Thunder Bay and a Pays Plat citizen, says LiUNA offers a Construction Craft Worker apprenticeship course.
“It’s a Red Seal trade which allows us to do everything in Canada,” Fugere says. “We’re there stripping the fields, we’re there preparing the foundations, we’re there building the foundations, we’re hoisting and rigging the precast, we are welding the precast and we also work with all of the trades. We’re the first on the scene and last off the scene.”
Fugere says LiUNA Local 607 members work at job sites all across northwestern Ontario, from the Manitoba border to Cochrane to James Bay and Hudson Bay.
“Over at the Lower Mattagami (Project) at one time we had over 400 Indigenous workers working with us,” Fugere says.
Preme (George Palosaari), a musician from Fort William, says music is not the most traditional career path, but it is a career that he loves.
“It definitely has its ups and downs,” Preme says. “Nothing is guaranteed for sure, but if you love it and you just work hard and you stick with it, it is definitely something that pays off.”