It’s hard to believe that nearly a month has passed since our graduation ceremony for the Pre-Employment Training Program. The final week was so busy that it flew by — much like the rest of the program! Having Elder Susan Toolooktook visit us, we were full of inspiration from learning about her “Walk for Love” back in the winter of 1992.
During the final week, we reflected on our individual and collective learning. Participants put the finishing touches on their job search toolkits, including résumés, cover letters and references. They also set personal, professional and financial goals and many had the practical experience of applying for an available position.
They also planned, organized and coordinated their graduation event. Back in September, they said they wanted a pizza party at the end to celebrate the successful completion of the 12-week training program. We decided that the challenge would be to learn how to make pizza from scratch.
They found recipes for pizza dough and sauce, and made spicy olive oil with jalapeño peppers. After having done a trial run, they were able to calculate how much pizza they needed to make in order to feed ourselves and our guests. They worked together beautifully to plan and execute the ceremony, assisting and encouraging one another, teaching and learning together. It reminded me of the joy that work can bring when you are on a good team. It was wonderful to see one participant enthusiastically teaching another one how to make pizza dough. I suggested that he should open his own pizzeria in Baker Lake.
Of our original 16 participants, 11 completed the program and earned certificates of achievement. Awards were handed out for Leadership, Perfect Attendance, Positive Attitude, Punctuality and Patience. We played music on a borrowed guitar and ate the most delicious homemade pizza you can imagine. We invited special guests from the community, as well as friends and family of the graduates to help us celebrate. We displayed a slideshow of photos from the whole program. Reflecting on the last three months, we recognized just how much we’ve done together as a team. After the short ceremony, we also hosted games for the guests and handed out a few donated prizes.
Saying goodbye was not easy for me, nor for some of the participants. It was especially difficult to say goodbye to Susan Toolooktook, who has been very supportive and a source of inspiration for our group. Having worked together so closely over the course of the program, we have become quite attached to one another. The participants surprised me with gifts and tokens of appreciation. They even dedicated a song to me and our Program Coordinator, Nadia, to thank us for helping them build their confidence and gain work experience. The underlying emotional tone of the event was gratitude and positive wishes for moving forward.
So what will the future hold for the Baker Lake participants?
Two of our participants will be moving on to full time work at the Agnico-Eagle Goldmine. Another has found a job in one of the local hotels. Seven of them have applied to the Pathways to Adult Secondary School program to complete their high school diplomas, with hopes of beginning studies later this month. Five of them, plus our Program Coordinator Nadia, have stepped up to volunteer for the Advisory Committee to help develop the Baker Lake Social Enterprise (Thrift Shop). Still others are actively pursuing employment in the local kitchens and fuel or service industries, having delivered résumés before the end of the program last month. Most have gained motivation to find work in their community and to make a difference.
As for us here at PMC, we will be working in the coming months on ways to deliver similar training and help build capacity in Nunavut. We will keep in touch with our Baker Lake network, stay active on the Advisory Committee for the Social Enterprise and continue to support the successful personal and professional development of Inuit.
Thank you for following this blog. It has been an honour to share this experience with you. Thank you also to the Department of Family Services for the funding to make this program possible.
Ma’na and best wishes for 2017.