Oct. 2020 – How to help ensure hiring & retention success for First Nations communities – An Industry perspective

Numerous Labour Market Partnerships (LMP) have been managed over the last several years between the Lower Vancouver Island (LVI) Advanced Manufacturing sector and First Nations Human Resource (HR) and Education representatives. In every iterative of this process we have learned so much while simultaneously discovering that there is still so much more to research and understand. The following blog is the personal and corporate reconciliation journey of a senior HR executive (Heather) from a LVI based advanced manufacturing company. This journey has led to the creation and implementation of a successful learning and training experience to facilitate a better understanding of the LVI First Nations culture that will help develop a better and more successful hiring process for First Nations communities.

The goal of these LMP projects is to prepare, inform and educate a First Nations Workforce for current and future Manufacturing Sector jobs and career opportunities. One of the initial project implementation activities was at a MCLN (Manufacturing Collaborative Learning Network – https://mfgcln.com/) organized event in May of 2018. Viking Air had re-instated the “Viking Academy Aerospace Assembly Training Program (http://mfgcln.com/2018/05/08/viking-academy-aerospace-assembly-training-program/). MCLN was asked by Robin Ambrose, Viking Air HR Manager, to help engage the local First Nations Community. At that time we were in the early stages of recognizing that we were transitioning from a lack of employee and candidate based skill-sets, e.g., lack of soft skills, to a demonstrable shortage of available candidates right across the employment spectrum. It became increasingly important to explore strategies by which to diversify the workforce. There are numerous First Nations on LVI and Industry wanted to engage, explore and dialogue with this First Nations population for employment purposes. This was an under-represented employment population and not well understood by local employers. By virtue of inherent curiousity and business accountability drivers Heather embarked on a personal journey of knowledge development and education to better understand the LVI First Nations culture and history to facilitate a more successful hiring process.

Heather’s company has a rich culture of diversity and inclusion (D&I) including gender, generational, cultural and disability diversity. This diversity of thought translates to direct and sustainable improvement in business success. Understanding and truly appreciating D&I provides a competitive advantage for a business. Natural curiousity, a rich culture of D&I and business drivers continued the momentum for Heather to gain a better understanding of our LVI First Nations culture to help facilitate a more successful hiring process. Critical to this learning process was attendance at a Songhees Nation hosted forum in January, 2019 with Industry HR and Songhees Executives and personnel (https://mfgcln.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Workforce-Diversity-First-Nations-Forum-Summary-Jan-17-2019-V2…_.pdf).

This Songhees hosted event was pivotal for Heather’s learning, awareness and understanding. She embarked upon a pathway of self-education and studied First Nations history, culture, hardships, successes and current conditions utilizing online resources including online video, audio and documents. Amongst the many rewards from this self-education journey, Heather summarized her learnings to date from a corporate perspective by creating a one-hour Power Point presentation. This Power Point has been vetted, reviewed and aligned by her corporate peers across Canada and key elders associated with several Vancouver Island based First Nations. The reactions and feedback were remarkable and overwhelmingly positive! This presentation and resultant education has been positively and instructionally well received by Heather’s corporate HR managers, department leads and leadership teams.

The 5 steps of her journey have included:

  1. Educate myself – learn history, learn culture, learn hardships, learn successes, learn current state, learn protocols
  2. Demonstrate leadership – be a voice, advocate, walk the talk, lead by example, be present, listen
  3. Build trust with indigenous community – develop meaningful relationships
  4. Commit – to a lifelong connection with Indigenous peoples, policies and history
  5. Share the story of my personal journey – with family, friends, colleagues

As Heather reflected with me recently: “…the more I learn about our Indigenous people…their resiliency, values, beliefs and culture have connected with me.” Our research and experience indicates that this reconciliation based journey is unique amongst our local Industry HR managers. We can and will change this reality. We can collectively learn from Heather’s experience and adopt it as our own. Such a process will guarantee a successful hiring and retention experience between local Industry and our First Nations communities.