A five-week country food processing program offered at Inuvik’s Aurora College campus has concluded, where students who participated in this year’s program walked away with leadership skills and teaching abilities, thanks to two new courses offered through the program.
According to Lyle Renecker, the head instructor of the program, the “train the operator” course is designed to help students get into the mindset of being a manager or as the primary operator of a plant.
“They’re taught how different equipment works, what equipment is required, how to tear it down, how to sanitize it clean,” Renecker said. “They’re also taught the soft businesses skills and leadership skills of being a manager and a leader, but not a boss.”
As for the “train the trainer” course, he said that the goal is to equip students with the knowledge to teach their fellow community members how to process their own traditional country foods.
“If individuals are going to partake in jamming, that person learns the skills of adult education and teaching of how to pass the information onto other members of the community,” he said. “Setting up a lesson plan, how to explain things that are important, little tricks of that people can remember.”
In addition to learning the ins-and-outs of food safety and food preservation, both courses taught students how to package and turn an animal carcass into a patty, sausage or jerky.
“The trainers are going to spend more time at being able to – as an individual – learn how to public speak and to present a lesson to other workers,” Renecker said. “The operators, we want to make sure that they can work together or they know what it takes to be a leader and have good business skills.”
Both groups also learned how to pickle various vegetables and created their own jam, and were taught how to can char in a jar or package and seal muskox stew in a retort pouch.
Rita Green, who was a student in the “train the operator” course, had nothing but praise for the program, which was developed in part by the Inuvialuit Community Economic Development Organization (ICEDO).
“It’s been phenomenal. Our instructors have been awesome, supportive and patient,” Green said.
It was the instructors, she continued, who made all the difference, adding that she learned through Renecker’s patience.
“They’re very inspirational to me,” she said.
For Renecker, who’s travelled the world and worked as a farmer and a teacher, he said that working as the program’s instructor has been the most rewarding of all of his experiences.
“It almost brings tears to my eyes to see the smile on people’s face throughout the course, but at the very end of the course you can see the happiness when they go home,” he said. “It reignites me when I get emails or texts months later, saying ‘Lyle, I made jam today!’”
The ultimate goal for him, he continued, is to see his students utilize all the skills that he had taught them.
“You can’t change the world but you can change little bits,” he said.