Skills Nunavut: On-location at Meadowbank Mine with our Amazing Apprentices from Nunavut!

It was an exciting week for us: not only did we have a chance to drive on the longest road in Nunavut, but we got to experience a day in the life of an apprentice, working at Agnico Eagle's Meadowbank Gold Mine. Due to temperamental weather our flight arrived 12 hours late to Baker Lake, meaning we had to drive the icy 150km road to the mine site in the dark. It felt like we were in a video game as we twisted up and down the hilly tundra, not sure what to expect next. Luckily we got to share the journey with Vincent, a young Haul Truck Driver from Coral Harbour who had been weathered out from his shift due to a week of blizzards.

Finally, we arrived at the Main Camp (which felt more like we are at space station than anything else!) and settled into our dorm rooms. Employees at Meadowbank work 12 hour shifts for 2 weeks straight, followed by 2 weeks off. They are flown up by the Agnico Eagle jet from Rankin Inlet, Val d'Or or Montreal...or they take the 2.5 hour scenic route from Baker Lake, like we did. When had to be quiet in our rooms at all times as mine employees have staggered start times- there is always someone starting shift, just getting off or napping. To blow off steam, we ran around the track at the amazing indoor gym. The cafeteria was also something to marvel at: 24-access with delicious, never-ending supply of meals and snacks. We were in awe of the crisp lettuce and fresh char. If you're working a gruelling 12-hour shift, at least you can expect to eat well 24/7.

Back lot of Meadowbank- or should I say Space Camp!? ;)

Kayla Parker of Baker Lake is just beginning her journey as a Culinary Arts apprentice. She has always been an avid baker and her family and community appreciate her talent in the kitchen. At Meadowbank she is loved by the chefs and other kitchen staff. She gets the opportunity to craft new pastries and loves making pasta for the other Meadowbank employees. In a few weeks she will go to Alberta for culinary school. She hopes to open a bakery in Baker Lake when she graduates. She is excited to go to school, but will miss being out on the land on her skidoo (her other passion).

Meeting with the registered apprentices at Meadowbank was definitely the highlight of our trip. We got to sit down and interview Norman Eecherk who had just returned from successfully obtaining his Red Seal in Welding (no longer an apprentice but a full-fledged welder!). He shared the secret to his success: hard work, staying in school until the end...but that it is all worth it. He hopes to open his own business in Rankin Inlet one day, and employ young people in the community to be his apprentices! Norman works in Meadowbank's giant truck shop where the machines he services look more like dinosaurs than trucks- every person's dream! 

Program Coordinator, Bibi, getting a tour of Norman Eecherk's giant "office" at Meadowbank. Working in the truck shop is an important job.

On our way back to Iqaluit, we stopped at the Arctic College Trade School in Rankin Inlet to meet Ben, a Plumbing apprentice, and Amelia, starting her Electrical Level 1. Ben returned to Trade School after working locally in his community for a few years. He is excited to be back in school, ambitiously completing Levels 1 and 2 at the same time. He says plumbing is a very rewarding career as it's about solving problems everyday. Amelia Netser is from Coral Harbour and began at Meadowbank as a Haul Truck Driver working in the pit. She had always been interested in becoming an electrician and took advantage of all the training opportunities at Meadowbank. "I just love it!" she beams when we ask her how she finds her electrical projects. Amelia now has her own apartment in Ottawa and commutes back to school and Meadowbank for her rotations. It was inspiring to talk to such a passionate young woman who has earned her independence but continues to learn and set goals for herself.

Amelia Netser, Apprentice Electrician
Benjamin Kusugek, Apprentice Plumber

                      Lessons Learned from Apprentices at Meadowbank:

  • There are lots of opportunities here in Nunavut to do what you love, learn new skills while getting paid.
  • You can get to work on exciting projects and be involved in creating something real and meaningful.
  • After graduating from your program, you have enough work experience and accreditation to open your own business in your home community. 
  • You get to meet new, fun people everyday and find people who will be your friends and mentors for life!
  • If you need help, someone is there to help you.
  • As an apprentice, your employer will cover your college and travel costs until you graduate.
  • Although it may seem like hard work, apprentices have fun at work everyday.
  • Everyone should try a trade at least once!

Keep your eyes out for some of these apprentices at the Nunavut Territorial Skills Competition!