The First Nations University of Canada held a job fair at its Prince Albert campus on Tuesday for the first time in approximately five years.
Student recruitment officer Steven Swan attributed the interval to a combination of commitment and staffing issues, as well as overwork in other areas.
“Last time I think we had one was in 2009, so we’re trying to bring it back out now,” Swan said.
“This is my first year as a northern recruitment officer at a northern campus … Part of my mandate and job description is working with retention and development and making sure the students are getting a lot of support in terms of student services,” he added.
“One of the goals that I wanted to achieve this year was hosting a job fair for the students, so they can have something to look forward to in the summer and come back to school in the fall happy.”
Noting that many students do not think about their summer employment status during the school year, Swan said one of the goals of providing job opportunities ahead of time was to reduce student stress over finding employment.
He added that finding full-time employment for students after graduation was another function of the 2014 job fair.
In organizing its job fair, the university attempted to obtain community involvement from different organizations across the region, specifically targeting those that would tie in to programs students are enrolled in.
“Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, for example, would tie in with our social work students -- also the nursing program is offered through the U of S here, so it kind of ties in with them,” Swan said. “Ranch Ehrlo, for example, would be good for social work in terms of care workers.
“We also have the Northern Lights Casino coming here looking for employees, because we do have a large business administration program out of the Prince Albert campus, so it’s a good fit for them to try and get some work into that field. And of course, the RCMP is always willing to hire a lot more aboriginal students.”
Providing information to visitors on positions at the Northern Lights Casino and how they could apply, human resources officer Annette Hendrix said many students may not realize all the different jobs available.
While the casino is currently hiring a cashier in its food and beverage department, she noted that new positions regularly open up -- many of which can provide career opportunities.
“We do have lots of students that currently do work at the casino as casual employees,” Hendrix said. “So they come to school and then they come, go to work as well, and they have got the opportunity then to go further in the company.”
Swan said that the First Nations specialization of the university means that students have a good chance of being employed after graduation.
Though education at the university can provide a starting point for employment with a First Nations organization or company, Swan noted that it can provide plenty of other opportunities.
“There’s always other companies that are diversifying their employment strategy … so there’s a good chance that you can get a job there,” Swan said.
“A lot of our students come from the north,” he added. “So they do speak First Nation languages and lately that’s been an asset for people hiring, because in P.A. especially, you have … almost (a) 40 per cent aboriginal population … It’s always good to employ people that can relate to the people that come into their stores as customers, so it makes sense.”
Attendance at the job fair was scattered through the day, peaking between classes when students had some free time to check out the tables.
Visitors from the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology, SIAST and the Gabriel Dumont Institute’s SUNTEP program also appeared after the First Nations University invited them to attend.
Swan said that the city needs to hold more job fairs and related events to help individuals find employment.
“A lot of people don’t understand or don’t know where to begin in terms of looking for employment, because they never really have direction or really are unsure of where they can qualify to work,” he said.
“It’s good that we have people that are willing to give them that support, and I think the more we have of these, the better.”