While the Skills Canada Nunavut territorial competition always demonstrates young Nunavummiut have plentiful abilities and talents, this year was extra-special.
Youth converge at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit in unprecedented numbers – 70 competitors from 14 communities to last year’s 60 and 13 – and they demonstrated they know how to step up no matter what.
“The competition itself runs over two days and students have only eight hours to complete their projects, which are all taking place simultaneously,” explained program coordinator Bibi Bilodeau.
But Bilodeau says the weather in Iqaluit meant competitors had lots of spectators.
“Usually the weather at the end of April is sunny, which means more families go out on the land on but, this year, on competition weekend, it was overcast with winds gusting to 60 km so that likely increased our audience turn-out,” she said.
“Which is exciting for the students, to have an audience, but also nerve wracking.”
Bilodeau also notes some stand-out competitors.
“For competitions like video production and photography, competitors only receive their final projects on the day-of so it was a competition first to have two competitors, Isaac (Strickland) and Jenny (Aqqaq), who didn’t know each other and be from completely different parts of Nunavut, come to together through their joint knowledge of film and editing and submit a beautiful film,” Bilodeau said, adding Strickland and Aqqaq’s teammates couldn’t attend.
Strickland reportedly said he was apprehensive about working with someone he didn’t know.
“(He) almost said no,” said Bilodeau.
But it turned out to be the best experience he’s had so far with Skills.
Strickland, who is from Iqaluit, and Aqqaq, from Gjoa Haven, won gold for their short film When I Walk. Together, they will go on to compete at nationals in Halifax come May 27.
Bilodeau noted other highlights, such as: every member of Arctic Bay’s small team received medals.
Meanwhile, Alaira Sallerina of Gjoa Haven was raced to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy at the beginning of the competition.
“(She) returned the next morning to finish her up-do in hairstyling,” said Bilodeau.
Finally, all teams made it to Iqaluit on schedule to participate.
This 14th territorial skills competition totaled 17 categories, including high school and post-secondary levels for carpentry, outdoor engine repair, graphic design and electrical installations.
“With a few exceptions, the territorial gold medalists will be moving on to the Skills Canada National Competition in Halifax May 27 to 30, representing Nunavut,” said Bilodeau.
“The Nationals Skills Competition brings together students and apprentices from across Canada to compete in over 40 different trades and technology competitions so this is a huge opportunity for Nunavut students to see what other careers are out there.”
The team heading to nationals has yet to be finalized, but Bilodeau estimates at least 17 Nunavut youth will travel to Halifax, including four at the post-secondary level in electrical, carpentry, outdoor engine repair and graphic design.
As Bilodeau notes, with practice and perseverance, youth can achieve anything.