Opportunity Knocks for the Aboriginal Labour Market of New Brunswick

The next 10 years will bring both opportunities and challenges to the province of New Brunswick. An estimated 100,000 jobs will become available in the province over that time, but there will not be enough workers to fill those positions.  Based on current trends, a skills gap of 40,000 workers will arise over that time span and the New Brunswick economy will be challenged to attract and retain talent in order to meet workforce demands.[1]

One of the greatest opportunities to help meet this labour shortage in New Brunswick lies in the Aboriginal population. The First Nations of New Brunswick, which consists of 15 communities and the off-reserve population, are young and emerging. This is in contrast to the rest of the population in New Brunswick. Over the next ten years, over 5,000 Aboriginal people will be entering working age in New Brunswick.

NB Aboriginal population

Source: National Household Survey 2011, Statistics Canada

While this presents an exciting solution to the challenge of an aging workforce, there are barriers to seeing this opportunity become reality. In the NB Jobs Summit 2014, Kelly Lendsay of the Aboriginal Human Resource Council (AHRC) stated that there was a “great disconnect between New Brunswick employers and the Aboriginal population. This disconnect is one that must be overcome.

A major factor that contributes to this disconnect is cultural sensitivity. This is a two-way street. Employers need to be educated about the cultural differences First Nations people bring to the workplace and First Nations people entering the workforce need to be informed of expectations of the workplace.  In 2010, the provincial government partnered with JEDI to develop an NB Aboriginal Workplace Essential Skills (NBAWES) curriculum and is presently working with Aboriginal communities to bridge the cultural gap through Workplace Essential Skills training.

Unemployment rate in NB

 Source: StatsCan Labour Force Survey, 2015

Another barrier is that the First Nations people of the province continue to lag behind the general population in educational achievement. Low literacy levels form a glass ceiling that blocks many from entering or advancing in the workforce.

Education Comparison

Source: 2013 Profile of the New Brunswick Labour Force: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/petl-epft/PDF/Emp/Profile-NB-LabourForce.pdf

As shown by the table above, there must be a focus on education in order for the Aboriginal community to fully benefit from the increasing labour demands in the province.

Moving forward, here are some recommendations for action:

  • Aboriginal success stories should be communicated and applauded
  • Role models and mentorship programs play an important role in encouraging youth
  • Programs in the education system to encourage kids to stay in school
  • Career guidance can assist youth in making good career choices
  • Financial incentives for post-secondary education should continue until Aboriginal people are on an equal footing with the general population

The opportunity is there for Aboriginal people to play an integral role in the future of New Brunswick.  Education and career guidance is the key to seizing the opportunity and easing the strain of the 40,000 worker shortage in the next ten years.


[1] Post-Summit Report prepared by Julia Consultants Inc. and publicly available at: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/petl-epft/PDF/LMI/NB-JobsSummit2014Post-SummitReport.pdf

 Mike Hennessey

Mike Hennessey

Mike Hennessey, Aboriginal Labour Market Information Analyst, will be a monthly contributor to the JEDI blog. From Pabineau First Nation, Mike holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of New Brunswick and is currently finishing a Masters of Education at UNB. Mike is motivated to share relevant labour market information to help First Nations, industry, and government recognize the potential that lies in the Aboriginal workforce.