Joining the workforce through encouragement, belonging

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October 21, 2014 9:02 AM

Chief Robert Louie came to the Indigenous Economic Summit last Thursday to speak to kids from Lloydminster schools about their potential. - Jon Clarke Photo

With the Indigenous Economic Partnership Summit last weekend came a new addition to the growing, annual initiative – a youth component.

While the summit, in general, is held every year to encourage business partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous people, youth will have to take the reins at some point. So, in the spirit of carrying equal opportunity business ventures far into the future, a panel was held for students from all over Lloydminster at the Wild Rose Pavilion last Thursday. The aim was 75 students, but attendance broke 100.

The panelists included Cosette Green, career and employment consultant with the Alberta Government; Brad Onofrychuk, instructor and chair of business at Lakeland College; Dal Howland, a career counsellor at Holy Rosary High School and Chief Robert Louie, of Westbank First Nation in B.C.

“I don’t know if you all know it,” said Green to a congregation of Lloydminster students, “but you’re kind of the best commodity for our employers, as the youth that are up and coming.”

Throughout the panel, Green would describe what kinds of jobs were in need of labourers, while Onofrychuk talked about the opportunity Lakeland College could provide through their courses, and Howland covered careers in apprenticeships and trades. But then, Kara Johnston, dean of energy,  entrepreneurship and aboriginal programming at Lakeland College introduced Chief Louie to the panel.

“I don’t know if you really understand how great this man is; he’s a pretty humble guy,” said Johnston. “Chief Louie is a game-changer in the face of Canadian politics and in business. In 100 years or 200 years, he will be in our history books as not just a great indigenous leader, but a great Canadian leader.”

Louie said that, from an aboriginal perspective, the pause button has been pushed for quite some time. But now more than ever, the fastest growing demographic in Canada (indigenous peoples),  has become an untapped resource; however, with a little encouragement, that could change.

“I think that our peoples are really understanding that,” said Louie. “And I think that communities like Lloydminster are understanding that too.”

A sense of belonging in society and in the workforce; that is the key to sustaining equal opportunity employment and partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous people, said Louie.

“Whether it’s First Nation or otherwise, it’s important that partnerships are entered into; entrepreneurial, education, all of that translates to a better community overall,” he said.

“The youth are our future – there’s no question about that. They’re going to be our leaders, our business peoples, when many of us are long gone. And so the encouragement, I think, that we can provide to the youth is extremely important.”

He said that events like the Indigenous Economic Partnership Summit help spur that idea forward, but that the youth component to this year’s summit was right on the money – it provided a means for educating youth on business opportunities and encouraging them to go for it.

“Anything we can do to provide words of encouragement or support in any avenue, I think will better comfort and understanding,” said Louie.

He went on to say that the support would not only help youth recognize who they are as individuals, but encourage them to make a difference in society, and ultimately, make a positive contribution to the economy.

“All they need is that encouragement,” said Louie.

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