The Treaty Six First Nations kicked off their fourth annual career fair on Tuesday, hoping to draw more than 3,000 Indigenous job-seekers to the West Edmonton Mall for the two-day event.
Prospective employers, recruiters and job-seekers from Maskwacis, the Montana First Nation and the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation attended the first day of the conference.
Organizers say that 16,500 jobs are potentially up for grabs.
"The two-day event connects Indigenous professionals to government agencies, post-secondary institutions, private industry and not-for-profit organizations looking for qualified employees," event organizer Charlene Bruno said in a news release.
Garrett Cattleman of Maskwacis has been out of work for the past year after he was employed for almost a decade in the oil and gas industry. He's now doing training for environmental reclamation projects. But it doesn't pay yet, and so he's hoping to line up a job up when his training is completed.
"There's a lot of possibilities here — a lot from the field I used to be in," Cattleman, a father of five, said. "There's a lot of contacts here."
Cattleman said he hopes the job fair can help more people from Maskwacis find permanent work. He said transportation can be an issue for off-reserve jobs.
"We need more of our people out there working and this is making us more positive."
The free event features workshops on topics ranging from resumé-making to dealing with racism in the workplace.
"We recognize that there are barriers. It could be a lack of education," said Chief Tony Alexis, chairman of the Yellowhead Tribal Development Foundation. "It could be a lack of experience — we all face that when we're just starting out. The companies who are here know that and recognize that."