London Health Sciences Centre hosts first Indigenous career fair

Nash Syed, president of Children's Hospital, presenting before he career fair. Emily Passfield / Global News

On Tuesday, London Health Sciences Centre hosted its first Indigenous youth career fair.

About 100 students from five high schools in the Thames Valley District attended the fair in Victoria Hospital’s atrium. Prior to the fair, students and staff attended performances by Eagle Flight Singers, traditional dances, a smudging and a creation story from elder Myeengun Henry of the Anishinaabe Peoples.

“Next year we’ll be bigger and better. We want to do this every year,” said Nash Syed, president of the Children’s Hospital Network. “A lot of people have come together donating their time from within the hospital and outside, so I think we’re going to have a real impact.”

The career fair took around nine months to plan and was initially set to take place in November 2023. Nash said the idea for an Indigenous career fair came to fruition in a meeting with local chiefs (the London District Chiefs Council) and the Southern First Nations Secretariat, and the idea came to involve high schoolers and those younger in health care.

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He said it helps build the pipeline for an industry that is always looking for more employees.

“There is an identified need for getting anyone into health care because we need providers from all walks of life,” Syed said. “We actually have a great need of introducing diversity, and one of those needs is Indigenous populations.”

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The career fair saw 38 tables made up of volunteers from within the LHSC and external connections who believed in the initiative.

“It’s our first rodeo. It’s exciting to see the people here,” said Nicole Yawney, youth Indigenous wellness consultant at LHSC. “We’ve had a few hiccups along the way, but otherwise I think it’s been a great experience for the staff, community providers and the students themselves.”

Yawney said the fair provided the opportunity to answer students’ questions about the health-care sector and have a specific person in mind when they think about getting into their dream field, and it helps for that person to also be Indigenous.

“In the Children’s Hospital Network and the LHSC across, there’s not many Indigenous people, staff-wise. I thought this would be a great opportunity to have kids ask what health-care providers do and what it took to get to where they are today, like what education they completed.”

Most of the students in attendance found the fair a positive experience pertaining to what they wanted to do long-term.

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“I’m really interested in the psychology aspect (of health care),” said Zane Donohue, H.B. Beal Secondary School student. “Especially with kids with disabilities – I want to learn more about it.”

LHSC had tables teaching the students about various positions in the health-care system, such as radiologist, paramedic, child psychologist and porter.

“I’m an Indigenous person and this work means a lot to me, seeing other people in the field or even making relationships with health-care providers,” Yawney said. “I want to send the message that we belong and there is space here for us. For truth and reconciliation, it means having more of us in the systems.”

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