Willis News

Finding Our Way Moving Forward on First Nations Skills Development

October 2, 2013

Finding Our Way Moving Forward on First Nations Skills Development

By: Serge Buy, CEO, National Association of Career Colleges

Originally published  canadianindustryonline.com here

Today we have a problem. It is a problem that has existed since the birth of our country, but today it is in some ways more pressing than ever. This is the problem of how we as a society can address the inequality of opportunity that exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Volumes have been written on this subject, and I certainly do not have the space to revisit all aspects of Canada’s troubled relationship with its First Nations here. Suffice is to say that today a significant gap still exists between the desires and aspirations of a young and growing Aboriginal population, and what that population has actually been able to achieve thus far.

Promoting Aboriginal achievement is something that should concern all of us. Nowhere is this more evident than when one calculates the sheer financial cost of the gap.

Take for example, the 2009 report by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS), “The Effect of Increasing Aboriginal Educational Attainment of the Labour Force, Output and the Fiscal Balance.” The CSLS report finds that eliminating the gap in Aboriginal educational attainment and labor-market performance would result in a cumulative increase in real economic output of a massive $401 billion between 2001 and 2006. It also indicates that government (and Canadian taxpayers) stand to gain substantially, cutting expenditures on social services by $77 billion and increasing tax revenues by $39 billion.[1]

It is particularly telling that in the 2012 Drummond Commission report on public services in Ontario, the Commission recommended increased provincial funding of First Nations education even as it called for fiscal austerity and cutbacks elsewhere. Citing the CSLS report, the Commission found that better educational outcomes for young Aboriginal Canadians would than pay for itself in the long run.[2]

Herein lies the challenge. We know that a good education is the key to unlocking prosperity, not to mention less tangible benefits such as higher self-esteem, stronger communities and more stable families. The question is, how do we move forward in a way that makes this a reality? We know from painful past experiences that simply throwing money at this problem will not make it go away.

I do not pretend to have the answer to this question, but I can say that a good starting point has to do with the development of relationships. Positive relationships between individuals, and between institutions, are essential to addressing the gap.

Today we have a problem. It is a problem that has existed since the birth of our country, but today it is in some ways more pressing than ever. This is the problem of how we as a society can address the inequality of opportunity that exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Volumes have been written on this subject, and I certainly do not have the space to revisit all aspects of Canada’s troubled relationship with its First Nations here. Suffice is to say that today a significant gap still exists between the desires and aspirations of a young and growing Aboriginal population, and what that population has actually been able to achieve thus far.

Promoting Aboriginal achievement is something that should concern all of us. Nowhere is this more evident than when one calculates the sheer financial cost of the gap.

Take for example, the 2009 report by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS), “The Effect of Increasing Aboriginal Educational Attainment of the Labour Force, Output and the Fiscal Balance.” The CSLS report finds that eliminating the gap in Aboriginal educational attainment and labor-market performance would result in a cumulative increase in real economic output of a massive $401 billion between 2001 and 2006. It also indicates that government (and Canadian taxpayers) stand to gain substantially, cutting expenditures on social services by $77 billion and increasing tax revenues by $39 billion.[1]

It is particularly telling that in the 2012 Drummond Commission report on public services in Ontario, the Commission recommended increased provincial funding of First Nations education even as it called for fiscal austerity and cutbacks elsewhere. Citing the CSLS report, the Commission found that better educational outcomes for young Aboriginal Canadians would than pay for itself in the long run.[2]

Herein lies the challenge. We know that a good education is the key to unlocking prosperity, not to mention less tangible benefits such as higher self-esteem, stronger communities and more stable families. The question is, how do we move forward in a way that makes this a reality? We know from painful past experiences that simply throwing money at this problem will not make it go away.

I do not pretend to have the answer to this question, but I can say that a good starting point has to do with the development of relationships. Positive relationships between individuals, and between institutions, are essential to addressing the gap.

 


[1] Sharpe et al, “The Effect of Increasing Aboriginal Educational Attainment on the Labour Force, Output and the Fiscal Balance” p. 8 CSLS Research Report 2009-3.

[2] Drummond et al, “Public Services for Ontarians: A Path to Sustainability and Excellence” p. 209. Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services 2012.

 

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