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August 8, 2018

Housing internship grad transforms community office

“Show up ready, be prepared to work, and you can go far,” says Tyler Ross. Tyler is a maintenance worker in the Property Services department for the Champagne and Aishihik Nations in Haines Junction, Yukon. He’s also a recent graduate of the Housing Internship Initiative for First Nation and Inuit Youth (HIIFNIY).

Tyler’s interest in carpentry began when he was young. “I’m a hands-on type of guy,” he explains. When he learned about the internship program, he saw an opportunity to develop existing skills and learn new ones.

Tyler’s main task as an intern was to renovate some much-needed office space. In his community, employees from the Community Wellness department were spread between 2 locations, which wasn’t ideal.

Working as part of a small team, Tyler began to transform a building called The Healing House, or Näts’ekhį Ku. It was the community’s administrative office until 1998, but became overflow workspace once a new administrative building, Nän Sha Keda’ą Ku, was completed.

Tyler helped renovate the interior of the old building. He removed and replaced walls, flooring, doors and windows. He also installed drop ceilings, wiring, insulation materials and vapour barriers. As a result, the Community Wellness staff is able to work from a single space.

Construction in a Northern climate poses unique challenges, explains property manager Terry Rufiange-Holway, who works with Tyler. “Buildings must withstand extreme temperatures ranging from 30°C in summer to -40°C in winter. Without adequate ventilation systems, moisture buildup can lead to mold problems.”

In addition to the hands-on renovation, Tyler also helped coordinate the work of staff and external contractors. This gave him valuable leadership experience and some real-world industry lessons.

“Sometimes the job will take longer than expected,” Tyler explains, “and you should be ready for that.”

The North’s construction season is short, and therefore competitive. “It’s so difficult to find a job here in Yukon without any experience,” says Tyler.

His new skills and experience have equipped him for the challenge. He is confident about the future and is excited to embark on the next stage of his career.

The Housing Internship Initiative for First Nation and Inuit Youth (HIIFNIY) program provides work experience and on-the-job training in the housing industry. The goal is to help participants prepare for and find long-term employment.