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Spark the North: State of the Lake Event A Great Success

"Uniting Communities for Regional Growth"

On Thursday, April 25, 2024, Spark the North – State of the Lake was successfully held at the Legacy Centre in Slave Lake. The event brought together business owners, professionals, and municipal leaders from the Town of Slave Lake, MD of Opportunity, MD Lesser Slave Lake Region, and Big Lakes County. While 80 participants were registered, the event saw the active participation of 60 individuals representing business owners, human resource professionals, and municipal leaders in the region.

The theme for this year's event was "Uniting Communities for Regional Growth". Originally planned as Spark the North event, it was restructured in collaboration with the Town of Slave Lake after the previous edition was canceled due to low-ticket sales. The revised program featured panel discussions and presentations from different municipalities, highlighting their economic development projects and ongoing initiatives aimed at fostering job creation and regional growth. The event then was renamed as "Spark the North: State of the Lake."

In the opening presentation of the event, Kristen Cumming delved into the intricate dynamics of the regional labour market, shedding light on the diverse age demographics across municipalities. She explained how these demographics influence workforce availability, as well as the unique perspectives and work preferences of employees from different generations – from baby boomers to Generation Z.

Kristen presented the significance of demography as a very powerful tool for predicting and understanding workforce trends, owing to its relative stability and predictability. Kristen also emphasized the critical need for increased participation of Indigenous peoples in the workforce to ensure equitable economic growth and prosperity for all communities. Additionally, she also shared the Kinlaw Model of Engagement which identified four key areas that reinforce a culture of commitment: clarity, competence, influence, and appreciation.

Following Kristen's presentation, Dr. Patricia and her daughter Janice Makokis delivered a compelling presentation on the historical and contemporary experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada. They highlighted the enduring impact of colonial conflicts on Indigenous communities and stressed the importance of education, awareness, and reconciliation efforts. Dr. Makokis also added the importance why businesses and even their frontliners should undergo Indigenous training, she narrated the reasons based on the resource available on a study published : Inclusive Futures: Indigenous Engagement in Canada's Workforce - An Action Canada Task Force report.

Central to their message was the significance of recognizing and respecting Indigenous rights and traditions, grounded in the historical treaties that govern Indigenous-settler relationships. They emphasized that these treaties were agreements to share the land, not sell it, and highlighted the importance of understanding and honoring these agreements to address generational trauma and foster mutual respect and understanding.

Both presentations underscored the importance of understanding demographic shifts and historical contexts in shaping inclusive workforce practices and fostering meaningful reconciliation efforts in our communities. Dr. Makokis also encouraged the audience to visit:, a documentary series - a valuable resource to give us a deeper understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing.

During the State of the Lake segment, municipalities showcased their achievements and ongoing projects, sparking discussions on crucial issues such as housing shortages, which impact workforce retention in the community.

Overall Spark the North – State of the Lake successfully fulfilled its objectives by providing participants with valuable knowledge and fostering meaningful discussions on workforce issues, economic growth, and Indigenous reconciliation. The event served as a catalyst for collaboration, paving the way for a more prosperous and inclusive future for the region. The collaboration of different municipalities and Northern Lakes College proved to be an effective way to bring together our decision makers, leaders and community members together in a conference where we addressed the current issues shaping our region.

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