HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L. — It’s not unusual for young people in this province to leave home to pursue post-secondary education.
While many don’t return, others – like Natasha McLean of Happy Valley-Goose Bay – make their way home, bringing with them education and experience attained while working outside the province.
McLean earned a business administration degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
After working in the field of human resources for a New Brunswick-based company for about eight years, she moved back to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in 2001 to begin work as Serco’s human resources manager at 5 Wing Goose Bay.
McLean is now Serco’s site manager at 5 Wing Goose Bay.
Recalling the time she headed to Nova Scotia for her education, McLean said she was eager to leave her small town and explore larger places.
“I did that for a couple of years but you soon realize that living in a place where there is a real sense of community, where people look after each other... there is a lot of value in that especially when you get to the point of having kids and you want a safe place to raise them,” she said during a recent phone interview.
The 5 Wing base receives all civilian air traffic coming to and from Goose Bay. However, their main mission is to support NORAD operations and military training for the Canadian Air Forces to protect North American air space. 5 Wing also supports NORAD allies who come from around the world to train in Goose Bay.
“Knowing that we have 250 (employees)... and when something needs to be done to support the military that is our priority. And that’s where people feel a real sense of accomplishment in providing those supports,” said McLean.
There are about 250 buildings on the military base. McLean and her team manage over 20 different lines of services, including everything from roads and grounds maintenance to air traffic control; from water treatment to barracks accommodations; from hazardous materials collection to emergency services; from radar maintenance to information technology and phone services.
Serco partners with subcontractors and other businesses in the area. About 37 per cent of the company’s employees are indigenous men and woman.
“That number reflects our long-standing presence in the community,” McLean said of Serco’s 20 years in Goose Bay.
“We have people, local people, who have specialized skills now with the military that they never would have gotten. They work hard for that and they are really proud of what they do... We’ve also taken people who are trained and who were looking for a good job,” she added.
While there was a time in the past when Serco’s future in the Big Land was uncertain, McLean said the company now has a strong presence in the community.
She enjoys working for a company that supports community initiatives, she said. Serco has contributed to such endeavours as the new Pumpkin House and the Labrador Winter Games. The company has also supported the local cross-country trail club as well as the golf club.
“Our employees also do volunteer work for a lot of organizations in town,” she added.
McLean and her husband Carl Dingwell have five children: Christina, 21; Jordan, 19; Ashley 17; Brandon 16; and Niall 9 as well as an 18-month-old grandson, Greyson.
McLean said Happy Valley-Goose Bay is a great place to raise a family.
The many hours spent at a hockey rink, soccer field, and dance studio lead to out-of-town trips and building friendships with other parents, she said.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay is also a supportive community, she said, where people come together in times of need.
“When anyone, including our family, has medical issues arise, the community is quick to fundraise and provide support to those who are separated for medical treatment purposes.
“In our case it was two children, at different times, diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, and requiring ongoing treatments out of town for nine and six months respectively,” she said. “This is a close-knit community, where we recognize the challenges of living in a remote area, and look after our own.”