An Interview with James Williams

Question: Where did you grow up and go to school?

Answer: I was born in Fort Simpson and I grew up between Yellowknife and Inuvik. I went to Samuel Hearne Secondary School in Inuvik and then came here for half a year for my grade 12 at Sir John and then I went to PEI to play junior hockey and finished my high school there. I lived in Yellowknife until 2001 and then Inuvik to 2001 until 2008 and now back here.

Q: Where did you go for post-secondary and what training did you take?

A: I went to Concordia University – I was actually taking business but I was there also on a hockey scholarship. I did it for two semesters and then lost interest. I took a few years off and then decided to go to Fort Smith to take the Environment and Natural Resources program. It is a two-year program – I just recently moved back. I graduated two months ago. I would highly recommend the course – it's 50-50; you’re in the classroom and out doing field work. For the first year; we were out at Tsu Lake for over 20 days. We did botany, water quality testing fisheries, spill containment and search and rescue training. And then we also learned how to take proper notes and send professional emails. It trains you to be an environmental steward and also engage with the public. I had been with the North Slave office as a summer student for two years and then I received my permanent job.

Q: Why did you choose this path? Was it a straight path from high school, or did you take a break or change your mind?

A: I am a fourth-generation wildlife officer. My great-grandfather was a park warden in Wood Buffalo National park and my grandfather spent over 30 years with ENR all over the NWT. My uncle did 36 years with ENR and retired a few years ago. So now it’s my turn. I always thought my uncle had a really cool job. He was always out on the boat or doing patrols.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for students thinking about taking their next steps after school?

A: I went to university for business first and then I realized I didn’t like it and took a couple of years off and out figured out my calling. It’s never too late to find your calling. Before I went to Fort Smith, I took a full year of the UCAP (University and College Access Program) because I was out of school for so long. So, I took the upgrading course here in Yellowknife; when I passed I went to Fort Smith for my ENRTP studies.

Before I was with ENR I was a parks enforcement officer for four years and it got me outdoors and it made me realize I liked the outdoors. In my case, I had to go elsewhere; because in Grade 10 I was playing for a triple A team, so I had to leave for hockey. Other than that, I spent all my schooling in the NWT and I think we have a great education system here; especially with Aurora College. I think a lot of people have a misconception of Aurora College, but I think it’s amazing. I found it better for being smaller; you get more one-on-one with the teachers and you build a bond.