The Polar Retrospective – Looking at the Arctic labor market | Polarjournal
The Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories is located around 220 km south of the Arctic Circle. However, operating conditions are very arctic. The mine has been in operation since 2003 and is now to be closed and remediated along with other mines. Photo: Satellite image Axelspace Cooperation via Wikicommons CC BY-SA 4.0

The Polar Retrospective takes up events of the past week that are related to the Arctic and Antarctic and focuses on one or more aspects. This time, economic development, jobs and an announcement of our own are on the weekly board.

The loss of more than 1,500 jobs and US$75 million in economic spending power are projected impacts that could result from the closure of several diamond mines in the Northwest Territories NWT. That’s the conclusion of an economic report that made the rounds in Canadian and other media last week. In addition to these losses, the closures could also result in an exodus of around 1,100 workers (and possibly their families) to other Arctic regions, the report adds.

Some background: The operating companies of these three diamond mines located on the territory had already announced plans to close the mines some time ago. Diavik diamond mine is scheduled to cease operations by 2026 at the latest and Gahcho Kué by around 2030 – in both cases, the end of their service life has been reached. According to press reports, the survival of the third mine, Ekati, depends on the progress made in underwater mining.

For a territory like the NWT, whose population ranges between 41,000 and 44,000, this is a substantial number of people, especially when considering that it includes a highly skilled workforce, an aspect that is almost as valuable as mined diamonds in economically underdeveloped regions. Neighboring Nunavut could benefit from this, where forecasts published by the federal government predict a strong growth of up to 300 million euros in mining development. This should make the eastern neighbor more attractive for workers.

In order to provide the construction sector in Nunavut with urgently needed skilled workers, two companies have announced a collaboration and launched a 3.5 million US$ training program for construction workers. This will be used to drive forward necessary housing and infrastructure projects, among those probably the drinking water infrastructure in Iqaluit. (Photo: Google Street View / City of Iqaluit)

The shortage of skilled labor is not unique to the NWT, but is a chronic problem in the Canadian Arctic regions. Nunavut is also experiencing this shortage in some employment sectors. Whether in education or healthcare, administration or the private sector, well-trained personnel are still a bottleneck in the region’s development. This also includes the construction sector, where housing construction and the urgent renovation of infrastructure such as water pipes and roads are progressing slowly due to the shortage.

In order to address this shortage of skilled workers, at least in the construction sector, the two Inuit companies Makigiataq Inuit Training Company and NCC Development Ltd. have now announced a training program for a total of eight communities in Nunavut. The program, worth around US$ 3.5 million, is intended to create comprehensive construction training and thus reduce the dependence of the local construction sector on workers from outside the region. Makigiataq, which is affiliated with Nunavut Tunngavik Ltd., the largest regional representative of Inuit concerns, will fund the program for around 90 participants and will be implemented by NCC Development Ltd. and will run for the next six years.

The latest face in the Polar Journal AG team is Beàta Szablics. As manager of the “Polar Jobs” platform, she will focus on economic development in the polar regions. Her career has also taken her to Antarctica as a camp manager. (Photo: Beàta Szablics)

At Polar Journal AG, we have also recognized how important the development of the labour market in the Arctic and Antarctic is. Therefore, we have launched a new platform, “Polar Jobs”, which is dedicated to this aspect and which we will present in more detail elsewhere. At the same time, the Polar Journal AG team has been reinforced by Beàta Szablics. Born in Hungary, she has also gained experience with polar regions in the course of her career as a project manager for tourism and product development. Especially her last job as a camp manager in the middle of Antarctica brought her into contact with the polar regions as well as with labor market-specific questions and aspects, which she can now tackle as manager of “Polar Jobs” since last Monday. We are delighted that she has taken on this task and is a great addition to our team.

Dr. Michael Wenger, Polar Journal AG

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