The Challenge:

How do we get our Native people to understand that getting a job is highly competitive?

A few weeks ago I was engaged to teach a short Workshop on Powerful Communication Writing to a small group of recent immigrant students.

These students are extremely keen to beallowed to immigrate to Canada. Virtually all of them have made huge sacrifices to get here and have begun the process of applying for Canadian citizenship. Two of these students have left their spouse behind in their home country; one has left his young child at home and one has moved her child and mother here so that she is able to attend school.

They all extensively researched the process to obtain Canadian citizenship and have spent a lot of time and money to get into Canada to study.

What they cannot understand is the number of Canadians who have opportunities open to them but do not take advantage of these. They do not focus on getting an education or even life skills that would assist them in obtaining a job.

When anyone is looking to hire an employee, his or her task is to hire the best person to do the job with the least amount of training. In other words, someone who has the specific job skills (known as hard skills) required and who also has general work skills (known as soft skills).

When a job posting is prepared, the job skills required for that specific job are identified. For example, knowledge and experience with specific computer software programs or knowledge and experience with specific construction equipment may be shown as a requirement.

When reviewing applicant resumes, often applicants are screened out because they do not have the required knowledge and experience OR they do not have enough of the requirements. Some skills are an absolute requirement, i.e. knowledge of and operating experience of a farm tractor and baler are not likely sufficient to get a
job with a road contractor. But, on the other hand, if the job is to operate a bobcat loader, this might work.

If, however, one of the applicants has lots of experience with the specific machine being used, that person will likely go to the top of the list of preferred applicants.

This is the challenge with the push for high school graduation. Often it is the lowest requirement acceptable for the job. And if there are other applicants with more than high school, and in a specific area, i.e. if the graduate has a large number of computer programs, or completed high school in an automotive program, and are applying for a
job in their field of study, they will be considered ahead of someone without a special diploma.

Taking that to the next step, the job posting may say ‘grade 12 required’, and if an applicant has graduated from high school then has taken more education, even short certificates or a college course in their field, they too will be seen as ‘more qualified’. Employers want to get the most qualified person as that makes it much easier for them. They are not in the business of training, and want someone who can begin producing as soon as possible.

The same thinking applies to experience. The more the experience, the less work for the employer.

Employers want to hire individuals who – want to work; show up on time; are reliable; who will represent their company professionally; and have shown they are capable of commitment by completing some educational requirements, et cetera.

This is why employers look at people’s appearance, how they conduct themselves in an interview, and what their references have to say.

How many Native people are truly ‘job ready’? In North America it is estimated that seven million people consider
themselves Native. We know that a general count would have approximately 60% of our population under the age of 24 and 10% over the age of 60. What is the percentage who finish high school? Or attend and graduate from an institute of higher-learning/trade school?

We really do not know how many Native people are job ready or even working. Certainly there are many. Let’s focus on helping our youth learn what employers need so they are competitive and join the number of employed.

L.C. Stanley and colleagues are available for training and presentations on Career Development for Native People by contacting SAY Magazine – 1.866.485.2380.