Data recently released by the Government of the Northwest Territories indicates that Indigenous employees in the public service are still largely confined to entry-level positions.
On Nov. 15, the territory released Indigenous employment plans for each of its 11 departments and 13 agencies. The plans are part of his continued push to stimulate the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal employees.
Each plan includes a departmental breakdown of Aboriginal employee ratios by job classification. They also set hiring goals for the next two, four and six years, as well as strategies to increase those goals by eliminating racism and bias in staffing processes.
Looking at the data, it is clear that there is less and less Aboriginal representation as you move up the public service employment ladder. So what gives?
For his part, Deh Cho MPP Ronald Bonnetrouge thinks the territory’s education system is to blame.
“There are obstacles for our people to progress,” he said. “We are going to find ourselves stuck because we have no university, no college, no public administration [experience]. And a lot of our people can’t get in because of the poor quality of education to begin with.”
‘Lazy’ education a big problem in small communities, Deh Cho MPP says
The new numbers appear to support Bonnetrouge’s claims.
Take the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, the largest employer in the territorial government, for example. As of March 2022, of its 1,434 employees, 297 identified as Indigenous, or about 15%. The authority has set targets to increase overall representation by 25% in two years and 39% in six years.
Break the numbers down further by job classification, and the gap widens.
Approximately 38.5% of these Aboriginal employees hold positions requiring high school equivalencies or less. This compares to 20 percent in positions requiring college or trade equivalency and 11.6 percent in positions requiring university equivalency. Meanwhile, Aboriginal employees occupy only 8.8% of middle management positions and 9.1% of senior management positions.
This trend is found in almost all departments of the Government of the Northwest Territories, with a few exceptions.
Speaking to CBC News on Friday, Bonnetrouge said the discrepancies are proof of the territory’s “nonchalant” education system. “I’m not afraid to call it that,” he said.
Bonnetrouge – who lives in Fort Providence – said young people in her community often have to travel south to get their education before they can even attend college or university. He said the curriculum used is “very limited” and prevents children from taking specialized career paths, such as science or math.
He says the territorial government is not doing enough to fix the problem.
“They’re trying to wash it aside, saying it’s okay, our education is world class,” Bonnetrouge said. “And I’m scratching my head and going, ‘Well, what’s world-class about our education system?’
“It’s what our leaders have said in the past: we want a good education for our children, that they become doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, teachers, etc. This says a lot about what we expect from the education system in our small community. »
Education Minister RJ Simpson was not immediately available for comment, but the territory’s education shortcomings have been well documented over the years.
A report prepared by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Employment in early 2022 shows that in the 2020-21 school year, 45% of students in small communities graduated from high school on time (within six years), while 74% of students in Yellowknife graduated on time.
Similarly, only 49% of Indigenous students that year graduated on time, compared to 81% of non-Indigenous students.
On the job training, summer student opportunities possible solutions
Nor is Bonnetrouge the first person to make the connection between the NWT education system and the lack of Aboriginal representation in the public service. Leader Danny Gaudet of the Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government made similar comments at a meeting of the territory’s standing government operations committee last month.
“We really need to have a serious conversation about education, because I think at the end of the day if you’re working for the public sector, a big part of it is that you need to have an education,” Gaudet told l time, adding that education in his community was “poor”.
Gaudet also said he was well supported while working for the Government of the Northwest Territories. He said there were “lots” of programs to train people on the job, including helping people take courses to get their degrees, certificates or even diplomas to qualify for various government jobs.
“I don’t think you support [employees] like before,” he told the government committee.
Rylund Johnson, MPP for Yellowknife North, chairs this committee. He agrees with Bonnetrouge and Gaudet that education is “undoubtedly the biggest systemic barrier” faced by Indigenous candidates.
“We need to get more high school graduates and more post-secondary graduates in order to build that workforce, and I think like many of our social problems, education is the key solution,” he said. -he declares.
Johnson said the committee has spent the past few months traveling to communities and holding public hearings on ways to increase Indigenous representation in public service.
In terms of more immediate solutions, he said many communities are demanding more flexibility around hiring requirements for certain jobs with the proper on-the-job training to support it, and the expansion of its student program. summer in small communities.
“A lot of programs existed in the GNWT, the mentoring and management training programs for Aboriginal employees, but they just weren’t used and they weren’t really promoted,” Johnson said.
“So I think that’s starting to change, and pretty clear direction has been given to make sure all of these programs are fully leveraged and promoted to all Indigenous employees.”