‘Illuminate a path for a better future’

Youth attend the health career fair.

Nearly 150 junior high and high school students from Halifax Regional School Board recently gathered for the second annual Indigenous Health Career Fair – an event that aims to encourage Indigenous youth to pursue a career in health care.

Anna Jacobs, Community Development Advisor (Diverse Communities) for NSHA, said having more people from the Indigenous community in health care professions helps improve services for the communities.

“The health status for Indigenous peoples tends to be lower than others in our community,” said Jacobs. “One way to address this gap in health is to have members of the community work in the health system and provide the services and programs in a way that is relevant to their culture.”

A survey conducted in 2010 in Central zone of NSHA (previously Capital Health) showed Indigenous peoples are one of four groups underrepresented in the workforce.

“NSHA believes a diversified workforce is critical to better serving the diversity of the community,” said Jacobs.

Youth at the event learned about various health professions from current Indigenous health professionals and students. More than 10 organizations offered support and education to students concerning their future.

Courtney Pennell, IWK nurse and inspirational speaker, opened the event by sharing words of encouragement: “We need people like you in the health care system to become leaders and make our world better; to illuminate a path for a better future. I want you all to be here where I am today for another generation.”

Students left the event with a greater understanding about the variety of health careers available to them.

“This event made me more interested in pursuing a career in health care,” said one Grade 11 student. “I came here wanting to be a social worker, and it was great to talk to people and get more information.”

According to the evaluations, 36 per cent of respondents said they are now considering a career in health for the first time; 29 per cent said they are building an interest in a health career, and 20 per cent said they are seriously considering pursuing a health career.

“It will be many years before we see if events like this diversify the workforce, but raising awareness about the opportunities is the first step,” said Jacobs.

This event is a partnership between NSHA, Native Council of Nova Scotia and Healing Our Nations. Also at the event were staff from NSCC, Dalhousie and the Halifax Regional School Board.