A major Aboriginal jobs conference entered its second day in Saskatoon this morning.
Inclusion Works ’13 brings employers and Indigenous graduates together in a three-day forum of various workshops.
Kelly Lendsay, president of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, says linking First Nations and Métis people to Canada’s labour market is all about overcoming stereotypes.
He speaks of one non-Aboriginal businessman he encountered a number of years back as an example.
“A year and a half later, this gentleman was putting Aboriginal people to work,” he says. “But it took him over a year, to internalize for himself, a lot of the stereotypes – the negative attitudes – he had built up. But he became a champion, a change agent. I have seen this work across this country, and it is about overcoming this great disconnect.”
In his address, Mansbridge said high Aboriginal unemployment numbers in this country are a collective problem, and it will take all Canadians – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – to solve it.
He says all Canadians will continue to lose out if the current high Indigenous unemployment numbers persist.
“Here’s what continues to bother me,” he says. “Most Canadians have known about that employment gap all their lives. Yet, the problem persists. The pity of it is we don’t know what we are missing by not finding work for all those young people.”
In his speech, Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo said tackling the problem of high Aboriginal employment will require properly educating First Nations and Métis children in a socially inclusive environment.
He says before young Indigenous people can find jobs; they must receive a good education within a culturally sensitive atmosphere.
“Events like today, as we’ve just heard, are about employment but they are about something bigger as well,” he says. “It’s about asking those specific questions and then asking the big questions as well. Successful employment, for sure, starts with a nurturing, culturally supportive environment.”
Inclusion Works 13 wraps up on Wednesday.