Community collaboration helps launch careers

The Nunavik region is poised to play a key role in the extraordinary transformation of education and business that the coming century promises. While Nunavik is growing rapidly, so is the role of technology in careers. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that “65 per cent of current school students will be in jobs not yet invented.” Some 57 per cent of Nunavik’s population is under 25 years old, and while the region’s schools face low retention rates, its educators see a generation with a rich potential, ready to be activated and mobilized in a way that’s anchored by Inuit culture and values.

In this rapidly changing environment, we cannot accurately predict the type of jobs that will emerge. Nunavik’s youth will need a variety of skills to navigate through and adapt to a technology-driven work environment. These “21st century skills” include creativity, inquiry, collaboration, technology literacy and more, skills that have long been central to Inuit approaches to education.

It’s in this context that in 2017-18, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq mandated Small Economy Works, previously called Inspire Nunavut, to create a Career and Community Development (CCD) course targeting the students in their final three years of high school. Small Economy Works developed similar curriculums around entrepreneurial learning aligned with Inuit culture and values and tailored to socio-economic dimensions of a similar region, Nunavut.

In the case of the mandate received from Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the goal is to empower young Nunavimmiut to develop these essential skills while solving social, environmental and economic problems that they’re passionate about. The engine that makes this happen is creating community projects and social enterprises in collaboration with community members; making real and relevant impacts and increasing their confidence and skill sets in the process.

Rather than developing the course based on past experiences of the curriculum developers, the project team was purposeful in co-creating the course with five pilot schools, along with their students, teachers, administration and community leaders. This included working closely with classrooms to gather feedback during the piloting of the course in 2018-19. Students made incredible contributions such as communicating their longing to connect with Elders, wanting their culture to be at the forefront of their learning and expressing an interest in learning about what their future careers would look like.

Students in Akulivik show off the fishing nets they’re making. © Small Economy Works

Through this co-creation process, a course was developed that facilitates students in starting local projects that solve community needs, learning about markets and starting social enterprises, as well as developing individualized pathways to better prepare for college or jobs within traditional organizations. This included a comprehensive teacher support infrastructure based on “entrepreneurial learning”, so capacity in the course’s technical topics can be grown with teachers at home on an ongoing basis.

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq has equipped each of the participating schools with a technology kit which includes computers, cameras and filming equipment, as well as relevant software. With these resources, students are connected on a digital collaboration platform, and the teachers help facilitate connection between students across community lines.

Students start by exploring their personal skills, building relationships between their class and community, learning about Inuit culture and history from elders and exploring regional organizations. They then explore gaps and opportunities in the community using a design lens, start to brainstorm ideas on how to fill the gaps and validate their ideas with other capacity entrepreneurs and potential users or clients. Based on this validation and customer inquiry, students start to develop a plan to launch at a small scale, to test their concept’s usefulness. When they’re confident in their concept, they develop a marketing, branding and sales strategy and launch the project or social enterprise in their community.

In Akulivik, students created handmade nets for fish, seal and beluga whales. The course collaborated with youth organization, Youth Fusion, to help with the digital technology component to film a video and elders taught students where they should set the nets, how to skin seals and how to butcher the meat. To see the video of the netting project, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1DGdndmcDo

Other projects included a cooking and take-out service promoting healthy eating, a spa promoting self-care and well-being in the community, a plastic recycling project, 3D printing art, postcards showing off the beautiful landscapes of their community and other fundraising activities such as baking, movie nights and raffle prizes. The villages participating included Kangirsuk, Akulivik, Ivujivik, Tasiujaq and Kangiqsujuaq.

During the pilot, 50 students were surveyed regarding their experiences with the course. On average, most students felt the course helped them feel more connected with elders in the community, confident that they can make a difference, and more confident about what they want to do after graduation.

The two most important goals for students in their future careers? To be able to provide a good life to their families and to do something they love.