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By James Kuptana

In my opinion, as an Inuk and a recent university graduate, education is a fundamental building block in an individual’s development from early childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Where education is absent, poverty often is the result.

I think education is one of the best ways to combat poverty. For me, having access to quality education is crucial for individuals to develop their own identities, ideologies and values to live by. Education enables people to read and write, research and develop, and can enhance one’s worldview by encouraging the mind to adapt to dynamic situations.

Inuit are one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in Canada. With a median age of 22 years old, according to the Statistics Canada 2006 Census, Inuit have a unique demographic with the potential to make important contributions in our communities and the country. Numbering over 59,000 (Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey), Inuit inhabit four regions of Inuit Nunangat and urban centres across Canada. We are an adaptive culture with many unique skills and perspectives that can be applied to a wide range of trades, academics, and professions, which will become vacant as the current workforce begins to retire. The quote below illustrates how educated Aboriginal peoples (like Inuit) will be in a strategic position to support the Canadian workforce in fulfilling careers.

Based on current demographic trends, Aboriginal employment could grow by 200,000 by 2026 if the national average for labour force engagement can be attained — equivalent to a 1 per cent increase in total Canadian employment, or about 80 per cent of a single year’s immigration at current levels. -Glen Hodgson, 2010. Aboriginal Workers Can Support, But Not Sustain, Canadian Workforce. Inside Edge.

Education, including but not limited to post-secondary studies, provides the skills in demand and enables Inuit to access opportunities in the national workforce. The Inuit Qaujisarvingat: Inuit Knowledge Centre at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is working to nurture young Inuit by encouraging them to pursue post-secondary studies.

Tukitaarvik
Tukitaarvik is a new website forum for Inuit students to connect and communicate. The name Tukitaarvik means to “come together and gain an understanding.” Tukitaarvik was designed with the purpose to guide Inuit students in post-secondary education by providing important information about the requirements, options, and challenges that may arise during post-secondary studies.

The idea for the website was developed by a focus group with former Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) students in Iqaluit, in 2010. These eight Inuit students from NS recognized that other Inuit students were experiencing similar challenges in pursuing post-secondary education.

The result of the focus group was the creation of Tukitaarvik. Tukitaarvik is dedicated to Inuit students, developed by Inuit students and managed by a team that includes Inuit University graduates. The objectives of Tukitaarvik are as follows:

  • Support the transition to post-secondary studies for Inuit students across Canada;
  • Help guide Inuit students along their journey to post-secondary education;
  • Showcase the opportunities that will fit unique skills and interests of Inuit students;
  • Provide an interactive website that offers support, resources and networking opportunities for Inuit students;
  • Explain the post-secondary application process; and
  • Provide a platform where alumni, mentors and Inuit students can share their experience, accomplishments and advice.

Some of the features of the website include:

  • A collection of inspirational quotes, messages and videos from current Inuit students and university graduates;
  • A networking function providing people with an opportunity to learn directly from their peers as they explore career options; and
  • Practical information (funding options, job fairs, career opportunities) and advice from current Inuit students.

Tukitaarvik is now online seeking Inuit participants (high school students, prospective and current post-secondary students and mentors) to join the network. You can begin by registering at www.tukitaarvik.ca.

Tukitaarvik is a joint initiative of ArcticNet, University of Laval, Carleton University and Inuit Qaujisarvingat: Inuit Knowledge Centre. Please direct any feedback, questions or comments to James Kuptana via the contact button at www.tukitaarvik.ca.

James Kuptana is a recent graduate of the Indigenous Environmental Studies program at Trent University. James retains strong ties to Sachs Harbour, his home community in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, and currently works as a researcher at Inuit Qaujisarvingat: Inuit Knowledge Centre at Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in Ottawa.