It may appear to be an insurmountable task to tackle the dire housing issues that Nunavummiut have endured for decades. But for Clarence Synard, president and CEO of NNC Investment Group, parent company to NCC Development Ltd. in Nunavut, the challenge and strong desire to help resolve those issues is what gets him up and going each morning.

An agreement in principal partnership announced last year between NCC and the Nunavut Housing Corporation is meant to begin addressing the need for additional housing.

Under the umbrella of what is known as the Nunavut 3000 initiative, the initiative will see 3,000 new cost-effective housing units built for Nunavummiut by the year 2030.

“You know what, it is a daunting program and it’s very aggressive, but what’s daunting to me and what motivates me on a daily basis is the situation and conditions that far too many Inuit are forced to live in,” Synard said. “And we can have a chance to be a part of that solution.”

Construction could be thought of as challenging in the harsh cold, remoteness and topography of Nunavut. But who better to have working on this vast project than those who are acclimatized and who know the land and communities where these homes will be built?

“We are putting a big emphasis on attracting employees at the local community level and having them engaged in the process as well,” said Synard. “So, obviously we are hiring local first — we are hiring Inuit-beneficiaries first, combined with current staff that we already have.”

To help achieve the goal of having local workers ready to get the job done, 12-week training programs are going to be held for Nunavut residents within their communities, he added.

“One of the things that our Nunavut 3000 does is that we are going to roll out training programs in every single community before we start building.

“It’s our intent — we are purposely going into these communities under Nunavut 3000 — and we are importing less workers that you would normally see, with the intention of a bigger, stronger engagement on the community level and having employees at the community level worksite-ready when they come there (to build).”

Synard acknowledged that some people wanting to work aren’t able to travel or leave their community.

“Everyone has a different real life situation that allows them flexibility to travel or prohibits them from travelling,” he said. “We just felt that if we were able to offer that training on a local level, at the community level, right in their hometown, we are going to have better success with that as well, so it also cuts costs.”

The first round of recruiting has already started, he said.

“We actually have our staff go out, boots on the ground, advertise that we are coming to town and we will hold a session in the community stating when the project is anticipated to start, how many people we are looking for to work on the project and when training is anticipated to occur.”

From their initial contact made, Synard said his staff have received a great deal of interest from people at the community level wanting to have successful and meaningful careers in the trades.

Range of professions

While the bulk of the training will be in construction and carpentry, he said with safety certification and worksite readiness training done, workers could also work with a plumbing company or electrical company.

“So from our initial visit to the communities, we will be doing another one in a couple of months from now, and from that we will be taking our recruits into training. The training is all going to occur prior to the start of the job sites.”

Initially, 10 people from each community will be trained, he said. Those who receive the training first will be those who will be starting projects right away.

“We are trying to reduce the gap between completion of training, to going out in real life and practising and learning more,” said Synard.

Not only does this arrangement empower local residents and help them attain careers in the trades, it also means there will be lesser need to find housing for workers imported from the south, he noted.

After supplies arrive via sealift in June, the communities of Gjoa Haven, Cambridge Bay, Taloyoak, Baker Lake, Arviat, Rankin Inlet, Arctic Bay and Iqaluit will see housing units starting to be built this year, with an estimated completion date of some time in 2024.

A total of 16 structures containing 150 units will be built during this project. Synard said with the current sealift schedules, his staff don’t anticipate any issues with obtaining the required materials for the projects.

Synard says it’s a start.

“It certainly doesn’t come anywhere close to addressing the need that is out there and the crisis that we find ourselves in. However, by the fall of 2024, there will be an additional 150 homes for families,” he said. “As soon as one family moves into a unit, in a lot of cases, they are moving out of an overcrowded situation, which hopefully means that the unit that they moved out of now becomes more habitable and less overcrowded.

“The way that I look at that is when we are able to build 150 units, that is going to have a positive impact on 300 families because of the overcrowding situation that many people find themselves in.”

Next month, discussions will begin to determine the 2024-25 construction project locations, he said.

Synard said overall, if they put a real commitment into building the workforce, the construction of the units will fall into place.

“If we can build the individuals in communities, that is really going to help Nunavut 3000 along the way as well.”

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