Clarke ready for challenges at Northern Work Prep

Jason Kerr
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The Northern Work Prep Centre in La Ronge has a new manager.  Clarence Clarke just started a few weeks ago and he says he’s looking forward to the challenges.

“The north is growing,” he says, “there’s a lot of mining jobs, but you need technical skill, you need that specialized training.”

While oil prices frequently steal the spotlight in Saskatchewan, mining has quietly become one of the provinces biggest sources of revenue.  The Saskatchewan Mining Association estimates that mining creates work for more than 30,000 people in the province, directly and indirectly.  Most of that work is located in the north, and Clarke wants to help people take advantage of that.

“The aboriginal people who are here are a readily available workforce, so why not train them,” he says.  “I have people here right now and they’re ready to get going.  They want to move on.  They just need a little direction to get there.”

Clarke is a man ideally suited for the job.  He’s originally from Reindeer Lake and has spent time in Prince Albert, so he knows the north.  He also speaks fluent Cree, which has its benefits.

“It think it’s important, somebody who speaks Cree,” he says.  “The barriers go down.  People are not as scared to ask questions.”

Northern Work Prep is one of seven career centres spread out across the province.  It originally started out as the Forestry Career Centre in 2004, but closed two years later due to a downturn in the forestry industry.  It re-opened in its current form in 2007.

Stew Mayotte, who runs Construction Careers in Prince Albert, helped prepare Clarke for his new roll.  He says centres like Northern Work Prep form an important link between workers and prospective employers.

“We’ll make connections with industry partners out there, or just industry in general, and help people get their resumes out to them.”

A typical career centre helps prepare workers for new jobs by setting up training programs and meeting with prospective employers.  They help workers get any safety tickets they need and brief them on what’s expected of them at the job site.  They also helps workers improve their education, if necessary.

“People need their grade 12 to get into mining, and that opens doors,” says Clarke, who spent 15 years as a teacher before taking on his current role.  “What we have to do is try to help them upgrade.  We send them to a resource, one of our partners.  We give them a link so they don’t give up.”

Those partners include institutions such as the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, and of course Construction Careers.  Smaller career centres like Clarke’s don’t have the resources the larger ones have, so they have to send their clients to Prince Albert for some things.  Running such a small centre has meant an increased workload for Clarke, but he says it doesn’t bother him.

“It’s like teaching, just a bit different,” he says.  “You still get to help people.”

Both Clarke and Mayotte stress than they will help anyone who comes through their doors.  Potential workers do not need to be aboriginal to receive help.  The goal is to see people of all backgrounds stay in Saskatchewan and succeed.

“We really focus on helping people learn how to help themselves,” Mayotte says.

However, Clarke stresses the importance of working with First Nations people.

“The aboriginal population is growing,” he says.  “Specifically in this area there are a lot from the La Ronge band.  They’re the majority of the population.  They just need to be trained, and I think they’re ready.”

Organizations: Northern Work Prep, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Mining Association Construction Careers Forestry Career Centre Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies First Nations

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Reindeer Lake, La Ronge

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