On the road again

Transition Support Coordinator and Instructor Jim Pope with the Mobile Trades Training Trailer in Pelly Crossing, Yukon.

Jim Pope and the trades trailer bring support, training, and strong coffee to Yukon communities

ON A CRISP AFTERNOON in mid- October, Jim Pope fires up the engine on Yukon College’s Mobile Trades Training Trailer – an 18-wheeler outfitted with all the gear needed for welding, electrical, millwright, and piping – and rolls up the North Klondike Highway.

Today he’s on his way to Carmacks to meet with high school students and anyone else who wants to talk. He’ll park the tractor-trailer in the community and invite locals to come see what kind of training is available and whether it might be a good fit for them.

Jim is a Transition Support Coordinator and Instructor with the College’s Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining. Hired as part of the EleV initiative, it’s his job to work with youth and with people who have had experiences with the justice system. He’s there to show them that they have options.

“I believe that everyone has the potential to learn no matter who they are,” Jim says. “I also believe that there’s good in everyone, no matter what they have done.”

Jim is Anishinabek. His mother’s family is from Ontario and his father is from Scotland, but he was born and raised in the Northwest Territories. He understands what it can be like growing up in a small community.

“I’ve never walked in their shoes, but I have walked beside them many times,” he says. “I can directly relate to many of the people I work with in regard to addictions, abandonment, and the effects of residential school that are intergenerational.”

Jim is open to talking about his story and the hardships he’s faced throughout his life. He went to residential school and dropped out in Grade 10. After that he battled many different addictions and bounced from job to job.

Being able to open up about his own experiences is a big part of the success he has in his position.

“If I can help somebody, I’ll let it all out,” he says. “For me, that’s part of my healing journey.”

In addition to sharing his story, he also talks to people about how they can make positive choices and set career goals. He also uses the equipment in the trailer to help set them up for success by taking measurements, reading blueprints, and creating a small metal-based project, borrowed from the curriculum of a first-year Industrial Mechanics course.

“At the end of it, I can say to them: You know what? You just completed some apprentice-level training. See, you can do this,” he says. “I’m just hoping to instill a little bit of confidence in them and go from there.”

His own confidence helped Jim seek out stability and full-time employment. He challenged the exam and earned his Industrial Red Seal in Mechanics, and then went on to receive a Technical Vocational Teacher Educational certificate and an Adult Education certificate. Now he’s determined to help others, one person at a time.

“For me, it’s about meeting people where they are and helping them get to where they want to be,” he says. “I have a lot of hard conversations, but it’s very rewarding when you see positive changes. I know things aren’t going to change overnight, but I try to plant that seed, and with the help of others, we water that seed so people can bloom.”

This winter, he’ll also take the training trailer to Pelly Crossing, Dawson, and Teslin. In each place, he’ll work with support workers in the community to bring people in to talk and to try things out.

“I’ll never give up; I’ll be a pain. I’ll make sure that if they get knocked down 10 times they’ll get back up 11.”