Aboriginal workers can help address the labour and skills shortages that many Canadian businesses face, especially those located in the Northern regions where resource development is creating a growing demand for workers. Yet low levels of formal education and a lack of work experience hinder the success of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian workplaces, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report.
Ottawa, July 11, 2012—Aboriginal workers can help address the labour and skills shortages that many Canadian businesses face, especially those located in the Northern regions where resource development is creating a growing demand for workers. Yet low levels of formal education and a lack of work experience hinder the success of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian workplaces, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report.
“Soon, Canada will not have enough workers with the right skills to meet its labour needs. The Aboriginal population, including Inuit, Métis, and First Nations, is the fastest-growing cohort in Canada, but it is underrepresented in the labour force compared to the non-Aboriginal population,” said Alison Howard, Principal Research Associate at the Conference Board, and co-author of Understanding the Value, Challenges, and Opportunities of Engaging Métis, Inuit, and First Nations Workers.
Integrating more of the Aboriginal population into Canadian workforces will require improving educational outcomes—especially high school completion rates—and providing better opportunities to gain work experience.
Between 2001 and 2026, more than 600,000 Aboriginal youth are expected to enter the Canadian labour market. This Conference Board of Canada report provides recommendations on the steps that employers, Aboriginal organizations and businesses, as well as policy-makers, can take to ensure that Aboriginal peoples both join the workforce in greater numbers and succeed in the workplace.
“Rather than focusing on the challenges associated with employing Aboriginal workers, businesses should tap into this underutilized source of talent to fill skill gaps and address current and future labour shortages,” said Howard.
Businesses that successfully hire and retain Aboriginal workers benefit in more ways than just finding qualified employees. Employing Aboriginal workers helps organizations build stronger connections and relationships within their local communities. Businesses become more diverse and inclusive when they tap into the talents of Aboriginal workers. And Aboriginal peoples who are successful in the workplace act as role models for others in their communities.
While many Canadian businesses say it is important to bring Aboriginal peoples into their workplaces, challenges remain. High school completion rates are a key area requiring improvement, particularly in Northern and remote communities.
According the 2006 Census, 34 per cent of the Aboriginal population aged 25 to 64 had not completed high school or obtained another diploma or certificate, compared to 15 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population. The 2006 Census also found that 44 per cent of Canada’s Aboriginal population had completed post-secondary studies, compared with 61 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.
“Increasing high school graduation rates and encouraging students to take courses that are required for employment is an important step,” said Anja Jeffrey, Director of the Conference Board’s Centre for the North, which published a report on similar themes, Building Labour Force Capacity in Canada’s North, in 2011. “It’s also important that long-term partnerships between communities, companies, and employment organizations are in place to build a sustainable and productive Aboriginal workforce.”
This new report outlines strategies that can help to bolster the recruitment, hiring, and retention of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian workplaces. These include:
- Improve educational outcomes – Beyond high school, Aboriginal workers also need greater access to educational programs that allow them to learn or upgrade basic skills. Employers can offer mentoring, internships, and job-shadowing opportunities.
- Simplify points of contact between Aboriginal organizations and employers – Better coordination among Aboriginal organizations to simplify points of contact for employers would make it easier for them to find and engage potential Aboriginal workers.
- Raise awareness of Aboriginal cultures – Cultural awareness programs can help to overcome negative stereotypes, racism and misunderstandings in the workplace.
- Increase opportunities for the sharing of best practices among Aboriginal employment organizations – Increased opportunities for Aboriginal Skills and Employment Strategy (ASETS) Agreement Holders to share information and best practices among themselves and with other organizations would strengthen their ability to provide services to both workers and employers.