In­dige­nous lead­ers push for jobs strat­egy


Lethbridge Herald - - HEADLINE NEWS - Jor­dan Press THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — OTTAWA

In­dige­nous lead­ers are ask­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to over­haul an em­ploy­ment pro­gram to help a young and grow­ing pop­u­la­tion train for a first job and move up the cor­po­rate lad­der.

The key mes­sages from con­sul­ta­tions on a new Aboriginal skills train­ing strat­egy pro­vided to Labour Min­is­ter Patty Ha­jdu ear­lier this year fo­cus on cre­at­ing sep­a­rate strate­gies for First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit, rather than a pan-In­dige­nous ap­proach.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials have told Ha­jdu that con­sul­ta­tions with In­dige­nous and nonIndige­nous stake­hold­ers high­lighted the need for more money for groups de­liv­er­ing train­ing pro­grams and a fo­cus on the fast­grow­ing co­hort of In­dige­nous youth.

The aim of the rec­om­men­da­tions is to shift the fo­cus of the em­ploy­ment ef­forts to build­ing em­ploy­ment skills, in­clud­ing for those al­ready in the work­force, rather than mea­sur­ing suc­cess by whether some­one in the pro­gram lands a job.

The Cana­dian Press has ob­tained a copy of the briefing note un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act along with an early draft of the con­sul­ta­tion re­port, a fi­nal ver­sion of which was made pub­lic in early Au­gust.

Both ver­sions of the re­port high­light how cov­er­ing post-sec­ondary tu­ition could in­crease de­mand and costs for the pro­gram and they stress the need to prop­erly fund In­dige­nous child care.

The Lib­er­als now have a few months to cre­ate a suc­ces­sor to Aboriginal skills and em­ploy­ment train­ing strat­egy (ASETS) and have it in place by April 2018.

A Cana­dian Press re­view of in­come data from the 2016 cen­sus found that four out of ev­ery five Aboriginal re­serves have me­dian in­comes that fall be­low the poverty line, or low-in­come mea­sure, which Sta­tis­tics Canada con­sid­ers to be $22,133 for one per­son.

Women fared sta­tis­ti­cally worse then men, but not by much, point­ing to a need to en­sure sup­port in es­sen­tial skills train­ing or en­trepreneur­ship among In­dige­nous women in a re­vamped strat­egy, said Daniel Peters, who over­sees the ASETS pro­gram at the Na­tive Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada. He, too, hopes for more money to sup­port es­sen­tial skills train­ing.

“There is still in­cred­i­ble amounts of sup­port and pro­gram­ming needed for women who have had chal­lenges in their lives to take that first step,” Peters said.

The fig­ures are not a full pic­ture of In­dige­nous Peo­ples in Canada as many re­serves didn’t have any in­come sta­tis­tics. Sta­tis­tics Canada plans to pro­vide more ro­bust cen­sus data at the end of the month as part of its on­go­ing ef­fort to paint a five-year por­trait of the evolv­ing Cana­dian pop­u­la­tion.

The gov­ern­ment ex­pects that over the next decade, about 400,000 young Abo­rig­i­nals will join the work­force, adding to the al­most 900,000 al­ready of work­ing age. In­dige­nous lead­ers be­lieve that youth­ful wave of work­ers could al­le­vi­ate an em­ploy­ment crunch the coun­try will face as re­tire­ments mount in the com­ing years.

A study last year from the National Aboriginal Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Board es­ti­mated In­dige­nous Peo­ples could add $27.7 bil­lion an­nu­ally to Canada’s econ­omy if they fully par­tic­i­pated in the labour force, but that would re­quire the gov­ern­ment to boost in­vest­ments in ed­u­ca­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and other ser­vices.

Pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment to some 130,000 In­dige­nous work­ers to close the labour gap will re­quire a new strat­egy to look for con­nec­tions in cor­po­rate Canada, said in­terim board chair Dawn Madah­bee Leach. She pointed to Aus­tralian companies that cre­ate In­dige­nous part­ner­ships as part of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion plans that could be repli­cated in Canada.

“Build­ing re­la­tion­ships is crit­i­cal to whole process,” Madah­bee Leach said.

“The re­sponse from cor­po­rate Canada is, ‘I re­ally don’t know the com­mu­ni­ties,’ or ‘I don’t know who to talk to.’ So we have to have some way to make that con­nec­tion. I think there’s a role that gov­ern­ment can play ... in that re­gard.”

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