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Internships increase Inuit employment in GN
Figures stuck at 50 per cent, despite program success

Beth Brown
Northern News Services
Saturday, March 17, 2017

The Government of Nunavut is eight interns closer to increasing Inuit representation in management positions.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Sivuliqtiksat Internship Program held an orientation session for eight new interns, Feb. 28 to March 2. Participants concluded their visit with a sitting at the legislative assembly. Pictured from left with Premier Peter Taptuna are Neevee Natsiapik, Ron Froese, Steven Curley, David Pitseolak, Sylvia Netser, David Korgak, Ovilok Olsen-Hakongak, Sammy Anngnaluak, Sandy Napier, Margaret Nakashuk, Albert Netser, Linda Vaillancourt and Patricia Lear. - photo courtesy of GN

New participants of the Sivuliqtiksat Internship Program visited Iqaluit for orientation sessions Feb. 28 to March 2.

The one- to three-year internship program, offered by the GN since 2001, is geared towards training Inuit employees for manager, director or specialized positions within government.

"It's given me a sense of pride knowing that I've been selected as an Inuit woman to learn and to successfully complete the internship to become a new manager," said Ovilok Olsen-Hakongak, 26, who is working towards a position as regional manager of human resources for the Department of Health.

"I think it's important to have someone, whether they are Inuit or not, who has lived in the North for a period of time so they understand the people, the communities the culture," she said, in reference to management roles.

The position is a jump for her from the Department of Finance, where she worked in payroll and benefits. She saw the internship program as a positive step for both personal growth and career development. She's been an intern with the Department of Health for two-and-a-half months and said she is learning just how much goes in to running the complex department.

"It gets me out of my comfort zone. I've been with Finance for so long that coming into this internship, it's a whole lot of new. I'm seeing, reading and doing things I have never done before."

quotePositions filling fastquote

There are currently 11 of 16 positions filled in the Sivuliqtiksat program.

"We're predicting for 2017-18 a full (program), and it's going to be full for the first time in quite a while," said Sheila Kolola, director of the Sivumuaqatigiit division within Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs, which oversees the internship program.

There were six Sivuliqtiksat interns in March of last year.

The new interns will be working in departments such as Community and Government Services, Family Services, Environment, and Justice.

The curriculum or learning plan for each intern is tailored to the new employee, to fill in any gaps they have in their existing experience. As for what job they will fill, that's up to the department that seeks out the intern.

"(The department) has to have a target position that the incumbent will be appointed to at the end of their internship and they have to have a dedicated trainer in place for that intern," said Kolola.

She said the program is of special benefit to more remote hamlets in Nunavut, where resources are fewer.

"It's very exciting for the locals when an intern appears in their community," she said.

The average budget for the program is $2 million annually, which includes salaries for the 16 positions,

as well as $25,000 per intern per year for training, education and related travel costs, as well as program operations and maintenance.

The program had seen 51 interns at the time the Department of Finance released its 2015-16 Public Service Address, of which 28 had completed their internships. Of those 51 interns, 84 per cent still work for the GN.

quoteA sitting in the legislaturequote

The interns visited the legislative assembly while in Iqaluit, March 2.

"I am proud of our government's work to attain a representative public service, and the Sivuliqtiksat internship program is a successful example of our efforts to fulfill Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement," said Premier Peter Taptuna in his welcoming address.

While respective MLAs were pleased to have visitors in from their regions for the sitting, South Baffin MLA David Joanasie used the interns' presence as a way to further his critique of the recent budget address regarding Inuit employment in government.

"The minister alluded earlier to the Sivuliqtiksat interns. Nonetheless, the numbers fall short of our goals," he said.

The current percentage of Inuit employed in government is averaged at 50 per cent, while the estimated target is 85 per cent, to properly reflect demographics.

Joanasie noted that while the GN had put substantial efforts into increasing this percentage, no progress has been made.

"This figure has hovered around 50 percent ever since we started reviewing the reports since December 2013.

"We have to double our efforts. If our goal is 85 percent, then we need to create vast numbers of training programs within the Nunavut government programs and services."

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