REGINA – The annual Stepping Stones Career fair may seem like a typical job fair, but it’s the target audience that makes it a bit different.
The job expo was open to all students and youths, but its main focus was students of aboriginal and First Nation descent.
The fair focuses on educating aboriginal youths about job possibilities after they graduate high school.
It’s a push to change a startling trend. According to the most recent Saskatchewan Labour Force Statistics, aboriginal people only make up about nine per cent of the work force, but more than 15 per cent of the population.
“In the past, Aboriginal people weren’t asked to participate,” Stepping Stones Mark Gettle explained.
“We have to educate them. Yes, you are a valuable part of our economy and we need you to be here.”
The most recent labour stats show the unemployment rate for aboriginal people is two to four times that of non-aboriginals.
Gettle explained the fair gives students a greater awareness of their opportunities, many of which are only accessible via education.
“The education levels of grade 12 graduation rates are lower, so I think our goal is to create an understanding, why education is important,” Gettle said.
Dozens of potential employers were on hand, offering careers in firefighting, the trades, technology, and policing.
Sergeant Rob Cozine with the RCMP said students at the fair were quite inquisitive.
“We’re very approachable, we always have been,” Cozine said.
“We’re always looking for members, we’re getting lots of students through here, and this is a very good venue to speak to students.”
For 18-year-old Tabry Still, the career fair helped cement his decision to join the navy.
“It pointed me in the right direction, I decided on the Royal Canadian Navy. Something I want to do, something I’ve always liked when I was a little kid.”
But for others, they’re just starting over. 36-year-old Ronald McGirr will finally be graduating high school.
“I figured it’s time to grow up and do something with my life,” McGirr said.
He said he’s interested in pipe fitting but hasn’t quite decided. He said he knows now his education will help guide him in the right path.
“There’s a lot of opportunities here. Hopefully I can find something I’m interested,” McGirr replied.
“I think this is going to be good for me.”