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Job fair helps fill Olympic ranks

Aboriginal participation for Games considered unprecedented

Job seekers hoping to join the Olympic buzz took a tour of possible duties at a community hiring fair at Totem Hall on Wednesday (Oct. 21).

More than a dozen companies and organizations from Squamish and along the corridor set up booths in an effort to fill their ranks before, during, and in some cases, after the Olympics. The event was open to the public although it was focused on opening doors for First Nations peoples.

The Olympics provides an important opportunity to develop employment connections that will carry into the future, said 2010 Olympic project co-ordinator for Squamish Nation Pete Natrall, who estimates the creation of "thousands" of jobs.

"It's a key element and participation is key to have us involved in as many areas as we can, whether in volunteering or job opportunities. We would like to build that relationship beyond Games time and have that relationship with the organizations," he said.

The 2010 Olympics will have unprecedented aboriginal participation, according to Four Host First Nations special project manager Faye Halls. She was on hand for her sixth hiring fair, offering opportunities to work at Vancouver's Aboriginal Pavilion.

Halls said she is impressed that First Nations and Métis people are being included in more than cultural and ceremonial aspects of the Olympics. The National Broadcast Company (NBC) has already taken on 20 people to act as VIP hosts, runners and computer data loggers. Meanwhile, Sodexo food and facilities service has hired 80 aboriginal people, often directly from the hiring fairs.

"I've been involved in employment training for 15 years and this has been the most exciting time for me because the companies are coming to me, they're excited, they want to have First Nations staff. And that's never happened before," she said.

Like most companies with Olympic contracts, Carney's Waste Systems is pushing hard to attract enough workers to get its big job done. Representatives Melissa Johnstone and Keli Herman were trying to attract 30 to 40 people to cover driver assistance and pumping duties during the Games.

"The fair is incredibly crucial because what we're looking for is local people, people that want to be here during the Olympics, that want to be a part of the Olympics," said Herman.

Some job seekers might have stumbled upon a new career. For instance, Contemporary International Canada was offering free security licensing and training to guard Olympic assets. Since the company is planning on expanding throughout the corridor after the Games, those hopping on board now could have a permanent job, said accounts manager Kevin Flynn.

"There's just loads of work up here that nobody's actually tapped into, especially in the Whistler area with all the Crankworx stuff, mountain biking, snowboarding, skiing, and music festivals," he said.

Job browser Carey Hall said the fair made it easier for him to know where his skills are needed.

"There's a big demand for everything up there and there's so much stuff to get done in a certain amount of time," he said. "It would be great just to be a part of it."

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