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Fire prompts rise from disaster
Blaze leads to a new school for marine training crew

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, October 31, 2016

A disastrous fire, which might have destroyed a lesser program, only served to push the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium to new heights and right into its very own building.

NNSL photo/graphic

Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium instructor Randy Pittman stands in the new school's warehouse, which has space for a small-engine repairs shop. - Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

"All year last year was horrible," said executive director Elizabeth Cayen.

The consortium, a group of partners which runs training programs in all aspects of the marine industry, was launched in 2004 and by 2015 the program was hopping. But its lodgings - classrooms and accommodations for students at the Ukkivik residence (Old Rez) in Iqaluit -were closed after the damage from an arson fire and water damage proved too great for Community and Government Services to repair.

Nevertheless, the program carried on.

"We met in all sorts of places," Cayen said. "We met in boardrooms, we met in some old Nunavut Arctic College classrooms which were really closets, we met in the parish hall - we met in so many different places."

The Bridge Training Simulator, which provides a 180-degree field of vision on large screens for navigation training, was relocated to a classroom at the college's main campus building.

It was a difficult year, said Capt. Randy Pittman, co-ordinating instructor for the consortium.

"We were moving all over the place. We had to adjust our schedules, not just for delivery of the program, but one of the biggest issues was the use of the residence for accommodations," Pittman said.

"But we did manage to get a couple of the Arctic College units at Creekside and we rented a couple ourselves. It was very trying. We kept the full program going. We managed."

Cayen said the lack of a hub left students and instructors disconnected.

"The students doing the more advanced training were not able to communicate with the brand-new students. That was a really good thing to have," she said. "And the other thing you can't do is make the classroom your own. You cannot make it a marine environment. The training suffered. They did fine, but they could have done so much better."

Pittman recalls driving by an empty building, the old Frobuild hardware store at 1515 Federal Road.

"I kept driving past this building, for years it's been vacant," he said.

As it turns out, the building was owned by the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation (QC), a partner in the consortium since its inception. QC is one of more than a dozen offshore Northern-ship licence holders in Canada. It owns the MV Saputi, which employs a crew of 50 people.

QC agreed to help turn the building into a school, brought the building up to code, and even paid for half the new flooring to cover up the concrete.

"They worked very closely with us to make this happen," said Pittman.

Pittman offers a tour. Here, his office, an office for three other instructors, a large common area with a small kitchen and extra computers for study, a hallway with marine posters, and three classrooms. The simulator remains at Arctic College.

Next door sits a refurbished 1000 square-foot warehouse storing the consortiums equipment and supplies, with a workbench and space for a small-engine repairs course.

The captain of this unusual ship could not be more thrilled. Pittman is constantly grinning from ear to ear.

"This forced us to do it," said Cayen, adding it's highly unlikely the consortium would have developed its own building anytime soon.

"It's Randy's and my dream coming true."

She credits everyone coming together to help for this exciting step forward.

"We went to the right people to help us. They were anxious to help. They see the importance of it. My board of directors is just over the moon. It costs a bit more, but the benefit far outweighs the cost," said Cayen.

"I remember before all this happened, I remember saying, 'Oh my god, if anything ever happened to the Old Rez, I don't know what the heck we would do.' Classrooms were all free, accommodations were really cheap and the students were all together. Now we're going to have that again."

Except for living arrangement, the instructors and students are back together at building 1515.

"You see the pride in their eyes when they come here. They have their own school," said Pittman.

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