Indigenous Career Day explored all options—with a digital award

Cindy Corbiere and Trinity Leeson fill plates for students to take to the Indigenous Career Day exhibitors.

M’CHIGEENG—Display booths lined the cafeteria at Manitoulin Secondary School as students discussed the various career options available both in traditional and mainstream streams.

“In working with the Ministry of Education’s Career Studies Pilot Project and as the only participant in Rainbow District School Board, it became clear to me that my school likely had the largest indigenous student population of any of my colleagues,” said MSS teacher Shan Keatley. “I am still working on the Digital Literacy module for the pilot program. In return for my efforts in the Pilot Project, my class got 15 Chromebooks from ministry funds; we had none prior to this. I asked my ministry colleagues about the possibility to do something beyond the module, for more classroom equipment, etc. because the feedback and input of all my students would fulfill a demographic niche. They agreed and pulled funds from a separate line of monies for my mini-career fair. These funds were slated for indigenous-connected educational projects. These funds will likely go toward some useful and expensive A-V equipment for the school, or at the very least, toward more Chromebooks for my careers class.” Ms. Keatley said the final decision on that allocation is still to be determined.

“Many of the youth on Manitoulin consider returning to the Island for work, but they are often unaware, beyond the large employers on the Island, as to what career and job options exist here,” said Ms. Keatley of her vision for the career fair, which she aligned with the school’s annual powwow. “The annual powwow and the terms of the extra funding from the ministry seemed to align nicely with the concept of having established indigenous entrepreneurs, indigenous organizations and traditional/cultural indigenous mentors invited to MSS prior to the powwow, to share their expertise with the student body. The guests would also be invited to join in the afternoon powwow with all of us. This experience, I hope, will provide the students with knowledge of indigenous organizations that hire both indigenous and non-indigenous employees in a wide variety of fields, while at the same time, showcasing indigenous culture and promoting awareness.”

As part of her ongoing project, Ms. Keatley engaged Isaac Gosse, a senior Mustang and A-V expert, who agreed to film the Career Day and to visually record key components of the day. “After editing his work, Mr. Gosse will provide me with a final copy which I will share with my colleagues in Toronto later this week,” she said.

Wiikwemkoong fashion designer, jeweller and photographer Bruno Henry with some of his works at the Indigenous Career Day held at MSS.
photos by Michael Erskine

“My two careers classes became the student-led facilitators of this experiential networking opportunity,” continued Ms. Keatley. “Michelle Jones, MSS Aboriginal Support worker for the Grade 9s, and I teamed up. We generated a grand list of potential guests who fit the criteria I was looking for and, from this list, the Careers students each sent out a business formatted invitation to one person.”

“Manitoulin Secondary School would like to extend a huge chi-miigwetch to the SpeakUp Grant funding under First Nation Education,” said Ms. Jones. “This project was established to promote community engagement and to bring in our surrounding First Nation community resources, businesses and authentic craft persons.” To that end it was a great success. “We had a wonderful turn-out. This collaborated project was a well demonstrated team effort along with the students of the Civics and Careers class. Each vendor was there to mention different fields and educational avenues of business and employment opportunities for all students that live on Manitoulin Island. The Grade 9 Aboriginal Support Program is here to build healthy foundations for our students to become successful individuals. The spirits were high and it was an exciting time. We will be looking forward to bringing the community to the school again.”

Ms. Keatley noted that the process helped develop and hone the skills that students will utilize in their own career searches. “They learned how to attach a Google doc to their email, to carbon copy (CC) me, as their teacher, so that I would see any responses first-hand too, and they did various jobs to help the guests on April 27.”

Among those various jobs was a traditional gesture of respect, as the career students lined up to assemble plates of food to deliver to their guests. The meal consisting of moose meat, scone and wild rice was prepared by local caterer Candy Corbiere.

Christine and Keegan Peltier are about to set up shop as Moonlight Consulting. Ms. Peltier is a psychologist practicing on Manitoulin.

“Following Career Day, the students each will send out personal thank you letters via email to the guests who attended,” noted Ms. Keatley, “as well as filling in reflection and feedback forms. I will take these to the ministry with me this week, in Toronto.”

The turnaround for the event was tight and called for considerable focus due to ministry deadlines. “Ms. Jones and myself only had about two weeks to put all of this together,” she said. “We were thrilled with the turnout and the response from our guests and others during the Career Day. The careers students and guests enjoyed a traditional feast of stuffed moose, wild rice and bannock—all compliments of our guest caterer and funding we received through a Speak Up grant. The careers students brought the guest their meals personally and got to make those face-to-face connections that are so vital to networking.”

“It has been a very interesting day,” said traditional healer Joseph Laford, who had a collection of his pipes and other items on display. He noted that nearly all of the items on his table had come as gifts, through barter with others or as gifts from the land.

The ripple effect of the Career Day event will soon be felt beyond the shores of Manitoulin Island. “I look forward now to sharing our Manitoulin experience with my career studies pilot colleagues later this week,” said Ms. Keatley. “It was a lot of work, as many of my students now understand first hand, to organize and run an event, but it was well worth it. Everyone had a good time and learned a bit more about each other. Personally, my vision of this small event shows how education can have a role in some of the fundamentals suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The more we all learn about each other, and how our lives are entwined—especially here on Manitoulin—the brighter our future as we move forward together.”