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Girls try their hands at trades in Rankin Inlet

Dozens of girls from all over Nunavut came to Rankin Inlet this week for a special program dedicated to intro work in the trades.

Organized by Skills Canada Nunavut, the three-day workshop featured 30 students from 15 communities between Grades 9 and 12, as well as some recent graduates.

Ashley Evalik of Cambridge Bay works on her plumbing skills during a workshop in Rankin Inlet. photos courtesy of Skills Canada Nunavut

“These sorts of programs have been happening all over the US and Canada for years now and Skills Canada Nunavut has always wanted to run one up here. This time we thought let's just do one in Rankin,” said Gail Hodder, program coordinator for Skills Nunavut Canada.

Participants got to try their hand at a variety of trades over the course of the week, including carpentry, plumbing, machine operation, and more.

For the plumbing workshops they made hoola-hoops out of the same materials you would use in the trade. For the carpentry portion they made a wooden cellphone holder, and for the machine operation component they got to use Northern Arctic College's simulator.

“Another thing we've asked instructors to do is tell them what a career in that trade looks like,” said Hodder. “It's fascinating for the girls to hear what it's like to be a tradesperson.”

Iqaluit's Emma Akulukjuk-Hackett, who is a trades apprentice in industrial painting and blasting, was one of the chaperones for the trip.

Amelia Anirniq Jaypoody from Clyde River glues black pipe together.

As part of the girl's daily routine she would speak to the various groups about her experience working on big construction sites in southern Canada, including an offshore an oil rig in Newfoundland.

“It was pretty cool watching the girls and to see their interest in the trades,” said Akulukjuk-Hackett, who only has 300 hours to complete until she becomes a journeyman.

“I told them were actually a lot of women working on the project I was doing. It was really cool to see how many women were actually in the different trades.”

Akulukjuk-Hackett also told the girls that they would likely encounter people who would talk down to them because of their gender.

“They would underestimate me and try to give me the easier jobs, but I always asked for the hard jobs,” said Akulukjuk-Hackett. “They would be surprised I could do it, or quality control would come by and say that the work you did is better than the people here that have been around a long time.

“I told them, don't let anyone underestimate you.”

She added that she would like to see more women in the territory embracing the opportunity to work in the Arctic.

“I didn't say it during my presentation but it was something we spoke about casually. There are a lot of construction workers that are flown into Nunavut to work on certain projects and if this generation can get into the trades, especially if they are women, it would be really awesome,” she said.

“If people from Nunavut could work in Nunavut we would have more Nunavummiut working in the trades.”