EDUCATION: A KEY TO ABORIGINAL LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION

It is no secret that the Aboriginal population has lagged behind the rest of Canada in high school and post-secondary graduation. While many historical and social factors contribute to this reality, a recent report from Indspire shows the untapped potential of the Aboriginal youth of Canada.

Indspire is an Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada. To date, Indspire has awarded almost $65 million through approximately 20,000 bursaries and scholarships to Indigenous high school and post-secondary students in Canada. I am a beneficiary of this great organization, having received a scholarship contribution in support of my Masters studies at the University of New Brunswick (UNB).

In order to assess the effectiveness of their bursaries and scholarships, Indspire surveyed 1,268 scholarship recipients between July and September 2014.  The results show an impressive success rate with 93% graduating from post-secondary education. This proves the fact that Aboriginal people will succeed when given support.  New Brunswick (NB) kept pace with the rest of the country with a 93% success rate as well.

The funding benefited Aboriginal people at various educational levels. Below is a breakdown of the education level achieved by Aboriginal people in NB based on Indspire’s survey:

education level achieved by Aboriginal people in NB

When viewed in relation to the Education Comparison graph shown below, financial support is making an impact on leveling the playing field in NB between the Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal population in the fields of High School completion and University Degree.  Indspire’s findings affirm the idea that financial support is integral to improving Aboriginal educational attainment.

Education Comparison

(Source: 2013 Profile of the New Brunswick Labour Force)

The entire Indspire report can be found here: http://indspire.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Indspire-Creating-Positive-Outcomes-Report-February-2015.pdf.

Recent research suggests that the more educated people are, the more likely they are to be employed (TD Economics, 2013), and bursaries and scholarships like those provided by Indspire are vital to helping Indigenous youth overcome barriers, achieve post-secondary education, and enter the workforce.

TD Economics

The full report from TD Economics can be found here: http://www.queensu.ca/sps/events/conferencesandworkshops/ippp/ippp2013/bkgrndmaterials/TDaboriginalemployment.pdf.

As demonstrated by Indspire, if Aboriginal people are supported they will thrive. This means that there is opportunity for businesses, banks, governments, and unions to partner with First Nations to support education and build capacity in the present and future workforce.

As an example of this collaboration, JEDI has teamed up with Brun-way to offer two bursaries of $1,000 to students who are currently enrolled in Post-Secondary Education.  The application process takes place each fall. Learn more here: http://www.jedinb.ca/bursaries.html.

There are some additional opportunities for Aboriginal students to capitalize on scholarships and bursaries, which can be searched through the Aboriginal Bursaries Search Tool, available here: http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1351185180120/1351685455328.

For regional scholarship information, Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) has released a helpful list for students: http://www.msvu.ca/site/media/msvu/Documents/Aboriginal%20Student%20Awards%20Print%20Copy.pdf

There is also a Facebook page that was put together that lists First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Scholarships/ Bursaries: http://www.facebook.com/groups/279126265431829/.

Aboriginal students should also be encouraged to apply for scholarships not specific to First Nations. Indspire has proven that Aboriginal students have the capacity to succeed, regardless of the source of funding.

An investment in Aboriginal education is an investment in the future of Canada, and the future of NB. As we collaborate, we can ensure that investment continues to grow and Aboriginal people continue to enter the labour force in increasing numbers.

If you know of any additional scholarship opportunities for Aboriginal students, please comment below so we can share!

 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.