With an injection of $25 million in new federal funding, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) will expand its mining-focused Inuit training program to all 13 Qikiqtani communities, also extending it five years from 2023 to 2027, as of February.

The Qikiqtani Skills and Training for Employment Partnership (Q-STEP) is the QIA’s Inuit training and employment project. The initiative was formed in 2017 in partnership with Baffinland Iron Mines as well as the territorial and federal governments and the Kakivak Association.

Baffinland also confirmed an additional $3.1 million with $2.6 million going toward apprenticeships and an in-kind contribution of $519,000 in a further five-year commitment to the program.

“Baffinland will also continue to deliver Work Ready Training programs at Mary River and our five communities as well as apprentices from the graduates of the Pre-Trades Training Program,” said Peter Akman, head of stakeholder relations and communications at Baffinland Iron Mines. Further Work Ready Training classes will be taking place in Pond Inlet (Feb. 13-17) and Iglulik (Feb. 20-24).

The objective of the program is to increase Inuit employment at the Mary River Mine, developing and delivering training programs for unemployed Inuit and to provide Inuit with certified and transferable skills for other possible employment openings.

It was previously restricted to the five communities most impacted by Baffinland’s Mary River Mine: Arctic Bay, Iglulik, Pond Inlet, Sanirajak and Clyde River.

The program saw a very successful run with more than 700 training participants taking part in Q-STEP.

“We had a lot of Inuit who started in the program and got into training and then they went on to employment,” said Kris Mullaly, QIA’s project manager for Inuit training programs.

Training in heavy equipment operation, drivers training (class five, seven and three) and pre-trade apprenticeships will continue. Inuit training and career development has also been added to Q-STEP.

Depending on the success of this Q-STEP run, Mullaly said it might expand to other areas, such as fishing and bus driver training, among other possible options. However, it remains a mining and construction focused program for the time being.

“We have the intention of supporting mining and construction but as we’re going, there may be other opportunities,” said Mullaly.

Qikiqtani Inuit who are interested in the signing on with the Q-STEP program can reach out to their local community liaison officer, sign up through the Tuttarvik application or the Q-STEP labour pool database, available on Google Play Store or Apple iTunes.

“We can see the success because we talk to Inuit one-on-one about it. Also it’s evident, we see people coming back years later,” Mullaly said.

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