The parking lot is full at Hagwilget Hall in the Hazeltons and inside the room is filled with voices.
There are children with balloons and people are helping themselves to a spread of fruit and sandwiches. Everyone seems excited.
The atmosphere is like that of a fair pavilion on show day, but instead of home-baked apple pies and knit sweaters on the tables there are flyers and pamphlets.
Today is the Gitanmaax Careers Fair, and in the Hazeltons, it is a community gathering.
Organized by the Gitanmaax Band and the Northwest Community College, the annual event is in its fourth year.
About 400 people were expected to attend the jobs showcase, but Gitanmaax Band corporate affairs director Monica Simms said the crowd seemed bigger this year.
The stallholders are a combination of employers, educational institutes and funding-providers.
Simms said that was part of the appeal of the fair, that it provided a “one-stop-shop” for discovering not only opportunities but tangible ways of pursuing them.
But this year, there’s a feeling of optimism at the fair.
Speaking at the event, Simms said people were excited about the possibility of new jobs from proposed resource and LNG projects across the north.
For a community with high unemployment rates, big mining projects bring hope for a more prosperous future.
They would also fill a gap in the local job market, which took a heavy blow from the closure of three sawmills in the early 2000s.
Since then, Simms said the community had been forced to adapt to a new type of workforce.
“With the mining industry really starting to open up in the North that has provided more employment opportunities but also a change in mindset,” said Simms.
“Where before it was like ‘I’m working nine to five, I’m in my hometown’, now it’s like camp jobs where they go away for two weeks at a time … so it is a whole different experience to what they are used to.”
As a result, she said people were looking to Prince Rupert, Kitimat and beyond for employment.
But most of the jobs aren’t available yet.
Spectra Energy community co-ordinator Graham Genge said his company’s presence at the fair was about providing information to help people prepare for jobs which are still in the pipeline.
Spectra wants to transport LNG from northeast B.C. to Ridley Island near Prince Rupert but the project is still a proposal.
“Currently we’re just sharing opportunities that would happen in pre-construction and construction,” said Genge.
“We’ve got a list of … job roles that would be more specific to our project and some of the steps that people would take to upskill or train to get the skills to work in this field.
“Currently there’s no field work going on with our project so those opportunities are very limited.”
Seabridge Gold was also at the careers fair to talk about its proposed gold, copper silver and molybdenum mine in northwest B.C.
The KSM Project, which would be located about 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart, would employ about 1,800 people during its five year construction.
But those jobs are also still on the horizon.
“The executives at Seabridge really believe we need to build the mine from the ground up and that’s why they see these communities … as really important places to start building those relationships with people and also building the workforce,” said project permitting coordinator Jessy Chaplin.
“We’re giving people advice for how to prepare for when we go into construction.”
Despite the prevalence of the resources industry at the fair, a broad spectrum of other sectors were also represented.
Careers in hairdressing, policing, the military, sales and dentistry were also promoted.
For one group of Hazelton Secondary School students, the careers fair opened doors to new possibilities, and a chance to experience life outside the Hazeltons.
Grade 9 student Kiara Brown-Martin spent some time at the Vancouver Island University stall.
“I’m kind of interested in marine biology,” said Brown-Martin.
“It’s just so cool.”