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Kiefer Sterriah and Archie Erigaktuk head back to Dechinta University by snowmobile as they pass an inukshuk after ice fishing April 17, 2014. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Kiefer Sterriah and Archie Erigaktuk head back to Dechinta University by snowmobile as they pass an inukshuk after ice fishing April 17, 2014. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

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Aboriginals search for companies with a social conscience, study shows Add to ...

There is a segment of the population more dedicated to making the world a better place and is ready for work, but some employers are failing to attract them properly.

This is according to new data released from Universum Global, a company that specializes in helping match up employers with the right employees. The results of the study comes in advance of National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

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Canadian college and university graduates who identify themselves as Aboriginal, Native or Métis are much more likely to say they are interested in being committed to a cause or feel like they are serving a greater good. In particular, these youth are interested in companies that focus on social, environmental and ethical responsibilities, and have a corporate culture that is accepting of minorities and supports gender equality.

“You have to be a part of it right from the start so they can see the opportunities,” said Monique Bateman, senior vice-president for Toronto-Dominion Bank’s Prairie Region and leads the company’s Aboriginal employee committee.

TD is an employer that understands the opportunity. For decades, the organization has been hiring people from Canada’s Aboriginal communities and has been actively ramping up recruitment. Recently, the bank released a report called TD and Aboriginal Communities in Canada where they show how they engage with the community.

Ms. Bateman is a success story at TD in her own right, having joined the company over 30 years ago after growing up in a Métis community near Lake Winnipeg. Now she leads a team of more than 4,000 employees in over 200 branches. “I never would have dreamt I would have the role I have today. Growing up in a small community where I was, banking was a foreign thing.”

For Aboriginal youth who really value social and environmental causes, a career in banking is not usually the first profession that comes to mind. TD tries to understand and appreciate the group’s desires first by communicating the company’s values as well as its employee inclusiveness. Since 2009, TD has had something called Aboriginal Employee Circles, which helps to raise the profile of banking as a career. Through mentoring and networking, individuals from the company go to communities to offer financial advice and help startups.

Based on her upbringing and experience with TD’s success, Ms. Bateman said to be successful in recruiting Aboriginal youth, it is critical to communicate how they can be their authentic selves at work and share their heritage.

Elsewhere in the country, more employers are realizing that Canada’s Aboriginal population can be a great addition for the workplace, due to their strong desire to make a difference.

“There is starting to be a great recognition that there’s a lot of opportunities and talent available,” said Jason Kipps, managing director of Universum’s Canada branch. “[Companies] are recognizing there is a lot of value, but they are looking at how to portray themselves in a way that is relevant to these populations.”

Companies should try to communicate the social and environmental advantages of their organization, Mr. Kipps said. Aboriginal youth want recruiters to get to the heart of the matter: why the company does what it does, the positive things the organization does for society and how they can be a part of it, he added.

“When we are advising employers, we normally talk to them about issues like support for gender equality or respect for their people in the workplace,” said Kevin Troy, head of research for Universum. “It is often thought that everyone has those these days. They are obvious to us. But for students in low income populations, it is not as obvious to them.”

Companies have to be actively integrated within Aboriginal communities and not simply writing a cheque from a distance, Ms. Bateman said. It is also important that employees have the flexibility to go back to volunteer and mentor.

“They want their community to be successful,” said Ms. Bateman. “They are really proud of their community and being a role model is very critical to the First Nations people as they want to give back.”

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