A partnership opportunity for Indigenous post-secondary graduates to develop their business and leadership skills also will provide British Columbia businesses with Indigenous knowledge and perspectives.
The partnership between the Province, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), the Business Council of B.C. (BCBC) and Vancouver Island University (VIU) will match Indigenous graduates of technical, trades, diploma and degree programs with companies in B.C. for a two-year paid internship.
The Indigenous Intern Leaders Program is providing interns with leadership skills and training through valuable work-integrated learning opportunities. The initiative is helping to educate and encourage B.C. businesses to cultivate Indigenous knowledge and culture in their practices by creating welcoming, attractive workplaces for Indigenous employees. Both the interns and the companies they will work for will receive mentoring from First Nations Chiefs and business CEOs.
VIU is providing logistical support to the partnership, but the program is open to Indigenous graduates throughout the province. Participants must be a B.C. resident, under 35 years of age and have completed a post-secondary education credential, such as a degree, diploma or trade certificate, at a recognized post-secondary institution.
“Investing in Indigenous leadership supports our government’s commitment to partner with Indigenous communities to implement the Calls to Action on reconciliation,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “The 150 new positions over the next three years will create critical opportunities for Indigenous graduates and foster growth for our business sector. I’m proud to be a part of a government that is creating opportunities for partnership between First Nations leaders, the post-secondary ecosystem and businesses to provide pathways to build the best B.C.”
The Indigenous Intern Leaders Program is an initiative of the Champions Table, a group of First Nations and private-sector leaders brought together through a memorandum of understanding between the BCAFN and BCBC. The aim of this innovative group is to produce concrete solutions in pursuit of greater certainty, partnerships and sustainable economic development that supports full reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in B.C.
"First Nations youth will bring their unique cultural knowledge and perspectives to B.C. businesses as interns, and in return, they will gain much needed work experience and develop valuable skills that they will eventually bring back to their communities,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee, BC Assembly of First Nations. “Innovative programs like this create the space and time for our peoples to work together so that we can forge common ground, a critical component to the reconciliation process.”
During the Indigenous Intern Leaders Program’s initial three years, 150 Indigenous post-secondary graduates will build work experience, leadership, professional networks and peer-to-peer networks at B.C. businesses. Participants will be employed for a two-year period and develop their talent within their chosen field while learning about the sector.
British Columbia expects 903,000 job openings over the next decade. Many companies already are struggling to find qualified employees. The Indigenous Intern Leaders Program offers B.C.'s businesses the opportunity to become Indigenous peoples' employers of choice.
The Province is providing $420,000 to VIU to support delivery of the provincewide program for three years. The other partners are providing both funding and in-kind services. Employers will be responsible for intern salaries and other costs of employment. After three years, the program is expected to become self-sustaining.
Investing in the Indigenous Intern Leaders Program supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action number 92: Business and Reconciliation, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 21: Equal Access to Economic Opportunity.
Government funding is provided through the Innovative Skills Training Fund (IST), established to facilitate innovative approaches and research in skills training and employment program design and delivery, with a focus on addressing barriers to employment for vulnerable and under-represented groups. The IST is funded through the $685-million Workforce Development Agreement signed in May of 2018 with the Government of Canada.
Delivering investments to support co-op, apprenticeship and work experience programs for high school and undergraduate students is a shared priority between government and the B.C. Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“I’m delighted to see more Indigenous youth provided with opportunities to learn, grow and excel in their chosen field. Programs like the Indigenous Intern Leaders Program help young people find stable, fulfilling employment, support B.C. companies seeking a talented workforce and demonstrate the tangible benefits of partnership between government, Indigenous leaders and post-secondary facilities.”
Greg D’Avignon, president and CEO, Business Council of B.C. –
“The Indigenous Intern Leaders Program is an opportunity for employers across the province to tap into the tremendous talent and potential of the province's Indigenous youth. Together with our partners in reconciliation, a whole new group of leaders in B.C. will gain knowledge of business operations, sectors and the communities around the province where they are located while offering B.C. businesses the opportunity to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and action on reconciliation into their organizations.”
Louise Mandell, chancellor, Vancouver Island University –
“The Indigenous Intern Leadership Program is a beautiful step in building reconciliation in B.C. This partnership between the Province, the B.C. Business Council, the BC Assembly of First Nations and Vancouver Island University provides an ethical space beyond traditional boundaries, transitioning Indigenous graduates into the workplace. While Indigenous interns gain access to work experience and opportunities, which were beyond the reach of their ancestors, through new relationships, business partners will gain Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. VIU celebrates this generosity of spirit – building community capacity, through sustainable economic development and the attraction of growth and retention of future Indigenous leaders.”