The Interprovincial Association on Native Employment Westman Chapter held its annual Champions of Indigenous Employment Awards Wednesday to celebrate businesses promoting diverse workplaces.
Interprovincial Association on Native Employment Westman Chapter (IANE) chair Doug Pople described champions as those “committed to doing the right thing at all times.” He added many employers are doing hard work behind the scenes to create diverse workplaces that are directly helping community members.
The IANE luncheon at T-Birds, Food, Fun and Games honoured Blue Water Wash, Gail Cullen of the Brandon Friendship Centre and T-Birds for their positive impacts on the community. The event also featured a special retirement presentation honouring Barry French for his powerful and forward-looking influence in Westman.
Pople has been with IANE for about 20 years and has seen these incremental changes add up over time.
“Workplaces are becoming more conscious. Workplaces are looking at creating meaningful change,” Pople said.
“I want to be hired because I’m qualified, but I also want to go to workplaces where I feel comfortable.”
While these changes are not always visible to the public in general, each person impacted creates a steady flow of positive change.
He described IANE as grassroots-level volunteers from diverse backgrounds and sectors united in the common goal of creating a representative workforce. The group works to assist employers in hiring Indigenous staff, but also assists staff in overcoming any obstacles they may encounter.
Education is a key piece of this initiative.
“I’m a first-generation post-secondary student in my family … My three siblings and me all graduated from BU with at least two degrees each,” Pople said. “To have the privilege to do that is huge. Especially in some Indigenous communities just to have the opportunity to graduate from high school is huge.”
IANE committee secretary Sarah Hobson said acknowledging those who support Indigenous employment in the Westman region is a critical action.
“Indigenous people have faced a lot of disadvantages that have happened over time. It’s systemic,” Hobson said.
She is grateful to businesses in the region that have taken the time to invest in the Indigenous community. Each investment marks an important step and shows what can be accomplished when working together.
“Employers and individuals that are making a difference in the community, they are hiring Indigenous people, along with everyone else, they’re providing that support to them and they’re also helping them grow and promote them, along with everyone else,” Hobson said.
Hobson praised Brandon University and Assiniboine Community College for helping promote education as a tool to help people secure employment.
Education is a fundamental building block to go further in one’s career, she said, and can provide mentorship and work experience as a stepping stone for students.
“We’re trying to spread the word. We’re trying to spread good vibes in the community and show others they can do it, too,” Hobson said.
IANE is supporting post-secondary students in Brandon in the form of two $750 bursaries. The deadline to apply is Nov. 1.
In February, IANE will be hosting the Community Connections Expo, a free virtual event for job seekers. The 2021 Expo saw employers from the local to national level attend.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun