CONSTRUCTION 2023: Kristopher Okpatauyak stumbled a few times on his way to becoming a red seal electrician, but he prevailed

Categories: Canada

Kristopher Okpatauyak is not the kind of person who gives up easily, and that was a key factor in him achieving his red seal as an electrician.

The Rankin Inlet tradesman attained his red seal status in February, meaning he meets national standards within the profession.

The entire process took him close to 10 years.

“Now I conquered,” he said, after admitting that he failed his second year and fourth years of apprenticeship but he kept trying and said he stayed away from alcohol to get his focus back on track.

As a high school student, Okpatauyak said he considered careers in law enforcement and as a ship’s captain. Then a friend of his, Gareth Taylor, told him that he’d been accepted to a pre-trades program for electricians. Okpatauyak was also interested in that line of work, but his math skills were not up to par, he said. He applied through Nunavut Arctic College anyway and was accepted — and a program instructor helped him improve his math.

After passing pre-trades, he got a job at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine north of Rankin Inlet, which was still under construction at the time.

“I had a great experience with them for two years… it was a good learning experience,” he said, adding that he worked on industrial tasks such as installing generators, grounding and bonding and “pulling wire.”

Then he moved on to assist in building the new arena in Rankin Inlet.

Each of the first three years of schooling in the electrician program entailed eight weeks in the classroom while the fourth and final year was 12 weeks of studies, Okpatauyak noted.

But to complete the third and fourth years, he went south to finish his studies in Calgary, since that possibility didn’t exist in Rankin Inlet.

Now, he’s working for EPLS Maintenance, mostly taking calls for service at government buildings in town. Although he’s satisfied with the terms of his employment, he has job offers from the territorial government and the option to return to the mine still stands.

“There’s so many opportunities,” he said. “There’s so many doors that opened for me when I passed that (red seal) exam.”

He’s planning to ensure that even more doors open by getting a second trades ticket, either as an oil-burner mechanic or a plumber.

“I don’t mind going to school. I’m just going to keep building myself,” he said. “The more school you have, the more tickets you have, it just helps you.”

He’s also considering the possibility of owning his own business someday.

Okpatauyak again emphasized how much difficulty he had with academics, but he didn’t allow that barrier to stop him from reaching his goal.

“I barely passed high school,” he said. “I was a bad kid, but I just changed my life around… I hope more Inuks and kids and people in Canada that (struggle) in high school know that when you mature up, it’s possible. I never thought I could ever get my ticket as an electrician. I just kept trying and I did it.”

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