New job service opens doors here

Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong held the grand-opening of its Anokiiwin office last Thursday with an open house for people to check out its new location at the corner of Mowat Avenue and Church Street.
“We had a number of employers and job-seekers stop in,” said Anokiiwin manager Dana Bridgeman Cross. “We’ve had lots of job-seekers come in in the last couple of weeks because they’ve been interested in applying for different jobs,” she noted.
“So we have had some walk-ins who have seen the place and know we’re here.”
The new location has been open for a few months while the office was getting set up.
But now with everything in place, including a wealth of information adorning the walls, they officially are ready for business.
Bridgeman Cross said Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong has been operating since 1991.
“We are mandated by Treaty #3 chiefs and support employment training and employment,” she explained, noting they have two offices in Fort Frances, one in Dryden, while the head office is in Kenora.
“We work closely with communities to offer employment training and professional development,” Bridgeman Cross said.
“This program also works with employers to try to have [them] register with Anokiiwin to look at offering diversity through their organizations.”
She added they maintain employer profiles and post jobs on its job bank.
“We try to offer Treaty #3 members the opportunity to go onto the job bank and feel like they are inclusive to apply for these jobs,” Bridgeman Cross explained.
“And then the full circle of hiring First Nations and seeing First Nations in the organizations locally across Treaty #3 as a whole.”
In addition to their Anokiiwin Job Connect database, Bridgeman Cross said they also offer courses on résumés, cover letters, interview preparation, and job search skills.
“And we network with employers and do career exploration,” she added.
“So trying to support a job-seeker who maybe doesn’t have the exact skills they want and trying to help them be prepared and be ready for work, or an interview, or even applying.”
Bridgeman Cross said they also provide workshops within the communities, too.
These include Life Skills, SmartServe, 30 Ways to Shine, Financial Literacy, and then Guiding Circles, which is about understanding yourself and finding new possibilities.
“So the program itself is just about building equality and increasing opportunities for Treaty #3 members,” Bridgeman Cross said.
Prior to the new location opening, these programs were available at the Nanicost building here.
Bridgeman Cross noted they continue to have a program officer and a self-employment co-ordinator there.
“We just want to have a face downtown and be able to support aboriginal job-seekers that are looking for supports and that can’t make it due to barriers of communication to the other location,” she remarked.
Bridgeman Cross said they began leasing the new space in November and started working on the interior.
She noted it is the former duty-free store location.
“They wanted to downsize and moved next door,” she said. “We came in when it was just an empty shell and asked if it was available to lease.
“He renovated it to suit and did exactly what we wanted.”
The building, which is owned by Cole International, was developed into two spaces, with Cole International using one.
The Anokiiwin office includes a reception area, a training room, and a couple of offices.
Bridgeman Cross said the training room will be used for a first-aid course this week, as well as SmartServe at the end of the month.
Other workshops will happen there on a monthly basis.
She indicated their services are similar to NCDS, and they work with that organization a bit, but their mandate is Treaty #3 membership.
“They get a lot of walk-ins that are First Nation that they support, but they are supported by Shooniyaa, as well,” Bridgeman Cross noted.
“So we just want to let the First Nation population know that we are here and that we can help.
“A lot of people are living off-reserve so there is a big population of Treaty #3 members living in Fort Frances or in Kenora or Dryden,” she added.
“So we support on-reserve and to the community itself, but a lot of times you have people who are just in town and want help, too.”
Bridgeman Cross said they have a lot of clients.
“We have 80 employers we have worked with over the two years that are registering jobs with us, and advertising and promoting jobs to the Treaty #3 membership.”
And she added they’ve posted more than 400 jobs on the job bank in the last two years.
“And that was jobs that weren’t posted before like that,” Bridgeman Cross remarked.
“We’re trying to have employers recognize that they have diverse people coming in to utilize their services or buy from them, and they should have a familiar face when they walk in the door.
“We want them to have someone that they can relate to.”
She also indicated several local businesses are really good employers for hiring First Nations’ people.
“Other employers don’t know and have never really considered it or thought about it,” Bridgeman Cross suggested.
“So I think the first thing I try to do is let them know about the opportunities of hiring First Nation, and what the services and supports are.”
She noted people also can check out their website at, where there are employer profiles, with plenty of information and links.
There is information for employers, as well.
They also offer some online health and safety training that is free for Treaty #3 members.
“It’s not about re-creating the wheel or making a lot of work for the job-seeker,” Bridgeman Cross stressed.
“It’s trying to get them the most supports they can have in order to be successful.”
Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong’s Anokiiwin office is located at 401B Mowat Ave., and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
For more information, call 274-0090.