Job fair helps Indigenous students build connections

Initially a daunting event to some, job fair becomes a valuable resource for Indigenous students
Photo: Ben Fleguel
Shayna Shawongonabe (centre) and her friends Mack Bodnar (left) and Ally Freedman (right) at the Canadian Museum for Natural History booth.

The Mamidosewin Centre helped organize a job fair for Indigenous students and alumni at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health on Jan. 25, in collaboration with Carleton University, University of Ottawa and La Cité College

Forty Algonquin College students pre-registered for the event, with 32 attending the day of, according to Summer Wabasse, the events and communications officer at the Mamidosewin Centre.

“I think the event was a great success. This is the third annual event and it’s definitely the biggest one we’ve held by far, both in terms of employers and student turnout,” said Wabasse.

Though Algonquin students and Wabasse herself attended previous iterations of the event, this is the first year Algonquin College was an official partner.

“I find that the people that come to the Mamidosewin Centre are really shy but they’re always willing to learn, and they want to open up, so I feel like this is the perfect event for the students of Algonquin,” said Shayna Shawongonabe, a second-year student taking applied museum studies and student navigator for the Mamidosewin Centre.

Shawongonabe said she gravitated towards the Canadian Museum of Natural History booth, having previous experience as an intern there last summer. She connected with her friends and colleagues Ally Freedman and Mack Bodnar, coordinator for the Indigenous Internship Program and Indigenous relations officer, respectively, for the Canadian Museum of Natural History.

Shawongonabe said they are trying to invite people into the Mamidosewin Centre and help them to branch out.

“That’s something that we face in Indigenous communities is isolation. So it’s really hard for us to be personable, and be outgoing and energetic and seek that connection,” said Shawongonabe.

“I mean, I think a lot of our students are shy. I hate to say, I feel like a part of that is because of racism. I meet students at our centre who don’t self-identify as Indigenous when they apply for jobs,” said Wabasse.

“I do think that a lot of that does come from fear of discrimination,” she continued.

“I told everyone coming today, these are all employers that have reached out to either me or one of the representatives from the other institutions to be like, hey, we really want to hire Indigenous students,” said Wabasse.

“I think having that reassurance that these employers all really value diversity and value hiring Indigenous people can help mitigate the shyness,” said Wabasse.

The job fair worked for Delbert Budge, a second-year computer systems technician networking student. He said that though the event was initially overwhelming, he talked to several companies.

“I’ve talked to Nokia, I’ve talked to Justice Department of Canada, Shared Services Canada, I’ve talked with DCC, I’ve talked to almost everyone here. Getting around,” said Budge.

Students who missed out still have opportunities to network as the Mamidosewin Centre said they plan to rerun the job fair next year. They also host employers at the centre year-round and have a job board on site and in their virtual classroom.

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