Aboriginal business council recommends holistic approach to technology sector

The council's logo. (Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business photo)

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TORONTO — Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and Tata Consultancy Services, an India-based IT company, has recently produced a report, which lists recommendations that might tackle under-representation of Indigenous in the technology sector.

The joint report released on Feb. 28, 2019, “Digital Directions: Towards skills development and inclusion of Indigenous peoples in the new economy,” contains a number of broad recommendations which will, hopefully, ensure that a growing Indigenous workforce, namely youth, will have access to the skills needed for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

“We must prepare for the opportunities of tomorrow by recognizing the realities of new world of work,” stated JP Gladu in a press release, President and CEO of CCAB. “The World Economic Forum estimates that, by 2020, a third of the skill sets required to perform jobs will be completely new.”

CCAB-Tata Consultancy Services report produced on Feb. 28, 2019.

“Coordinated action by governments, Indigenous communities and the private sector is needed now to ensure our people have the education and skills required for a resilient future in the evolving digital economy,” he continued.

According to the report, in order to meet the growing demands of the STEM sectors, the Indigenous workforce needs new skill sets in the digital market, which could require government investment, community outreach, corporate engagement, and, most importantly, innovating the education system.

The Indigenous workforce also needs to have proper community infrastructure in place, too – health services, housing, educational facilities, high-speed internet – and must be improved to national standards. But it’s not enough that basic needs are brought up on par to the average Canadian, CCAB also stated. Sustained efforts to keep those standards are also needed if Indigenous person are to stay in the new economy, the report continued.

This means that “parachute programs” will not work in the long run. Meeting the local needs of Indigenous communities often means STEM studies are more accessible. “These initiatives must be grounded in Indigenous culture and connectedness with the natural world,” the report stated. In fact, Indigenous-led STEM curriculum could bring about a sense of excitement among Aboriginal staff and students, which, hopefully might also mean Indigenous approaches to innovation.

The more involved Indigenous persons are in their culture and livelihood, it seems, the more effective their education. For example, CCAB’s research has shown that Indigenous women entrepreneurs are highly adept at innovation, despite having low involvement in the STEM fields. Around 80 per cent of Indigenous women entrepreneurs have a net profit in their most recent fiscal year. Innovation, then, means increasing accessibility in STEM education and training for Indigenous women, if businesses hope to benefit richly.

“Tata Consultancy Services is proud to partner with the CCAB on a meaningful dialogue around the importance of access, equity and inclusion in the technology industry,” Balaji Ganapathy, who works at Tata Consultancy Services, said. “Diversity is a driver of innovation. Therefore, we need to acknowledge and work through long-held hurdles so that our workplaces are truly reflective of society. Identifying and understanding how to scale these obstacles can provide new pathways to education, skills, employment and facilitate progress towards economic reconciliation.”

There are currently over 43,000 Aboriginal-owned businesses across Canada. There are also Indigenous business owners located in every province and territory, who work in a variety of fields like natural resources, construction, manufacturing, retail and services.

CCAB, based in Ontario, is an organization that is committed to the full participation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s economy. CCAB is a national, non-partisan association which offers knowledge, resources and programs to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal owned companies in order to foster economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and businesses across the nation.