Michelle Myers

Michelle Myers

Youth, businesses attend aboriginal job fair in Williams Lake

Former Tsi Del Del (Redstone) chief Ervin Charleyboy wants to know where young people are coming from and how they see things.

Former Tsi Del Del (Redstone) chief Ervin Charleyboy wants to know where young people are coming from and how they see things.

Speaking at the opening of the First Nations Youth Opportunity Fair held at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus on June 7, Charleyboy said he organized the fair for local high school students because he wants them to see what economic opportunities are out there.

“Some day you young people will be adults supporting your own families,” Charleyboy said. “I’m looking at 20 to 30 years down the road and wonder where you’re going to be. I read about protests and I think they’re not going to get you anywhere. I think with protests people are reacting to what the government is doing instead of being proactive. We have to be proactive in how we see things done in this country.”

Charleyboy, however, also encouraged the students to speak out and let their leaders know what they are thinking.

“If you hold back, it’s not going to get you anywhere. I’m not afraid to speak up and stand up for what I believe,” he said.

Around 40 students from Columneetza and Williams Lake high schools participated in the fair.

Before interacting with the students informally at tables set around the gym, representatives from Aqua Drilling, Beamac Installations, Brandt Tractor, Cariboo GM, D&S Electric, O-Netrix Solutions, Spruce Lee Construction, and Taseko Mines Ltd. addressed the students, explaining the nature of their businesses.

“Our youth is probably one of the most important assets we have in this town,” Beamac manager Mark Nairn said.

Nairn shared his own experiences, including the fact he “barely squeaked” through high school, hated the experience and hated being there.

It was his father who pushed him hard and told him he had to be there and go on to do something with his life — go to school or take up a trade.

“Out of a class of 300 people I was the only one or two that took up trades, but once I got into school and started seeing the opportunities, I did really well and was actually at the top of my class.”

Taseko’s vice president of corporate affairs Brian Battison talked about the expansion of Gibraltar Mine and the resulting 270 construction jobs added to the existing 500 that are already there.

“We need young people to come and work for Taseko Mines and we particularly need people from local communities. I’m talking generally about the western communities, out west,” Battison said, adding hopefully some of those jobs will be taken by some of the students sitting in the bleachers.

Looking around with a smile, Hank Unrau of Aqua Drilling said he was definitely the oldest worker in the room.

His company is comprised of four workers, but as the economy picks up he anticipates the company will need more.

“I’ve been working in the Cariboo for 61 years and it’s always kept me employed. I found at a very young age, with minimal education, your number one asset is your reputation. You must earn a reputation of being a reliable and conscientious employee. Once you’ve done that, you’ll always have a job. Plan on it,” Unrau told the students.

At his table, Brad Thiessen of Spruce Lee Construction shared building plans with students.

The first group at his table were five girls and he told them when he was in the construction program at TRU, half of the students in his class were women.

“We always need new faces on our job sites because young people always bring new enthusiasm and ideas to our work sites. We have 20 workers — 10 of those are journeymen carpenters and the rest are apprentices or labourers.”

Lorne Doerkson of Cariboo GM brought along a 2006 Denali truck for students to see first hand and many of them took turns sitting inside.

“About a week ago we hired a young lady by the name of June Lulua to help us to communicate with a totally different buyer. Buyers used to come into our showroom and talk to us about cars. They come in now and are extremely educated and telling us the price of a vehicle, not us telling them.”

Sometimes customers have looked at the dealership’s website at 2 a.m. and applied for a credit application, which means business is changing, Doerkson added.

John Kloosterman, parts manager of Brandt Tractor, encouraged the students to stick with a positive attitude.

“There is opportunity out there. You need to go after it because it doesn’t come to you. If you’re hanging around people that are negative, maybe you should find some new friends.”

Apprenticeships take three to five years, Kloosterman said, suggesting that time will go by, so it’s worthwhile spending time doing something that’s rewarding.

Rick Bell of O-Netrix explained his company supports industry from the carpet up.

“We’re the people that come in behind and support the people that do everything else. There are lots of career opportunities because technology is everywhere these days,” Bell said.

Don Erikson of D&S Electric told the students the people that trained him are getting on in years and he’s determined its his turn to train young people.

“If you have any questions I’m here to try and help you figure out how to get into the trades and start your future,” he said.

As he watched the students interact with the various industry people, Charleyboy looked content.

“It’s a good start,” he said, adding he’s hoping to form an aboriginal youth council.