Successful participation of northern Aboriginal youth in the Canadian labour market is of primary concern for the northern Aboriginal communities as well as for the Canadian economy at large. Many observers of the northern Canadian labour market have noted a mismatch: on the one hand, many young northern Aboriginal people are without suitable paid employment, while on the other, employers are struggling to develop a skilled and self-renewing local workforce.
Our project synthesized published academic research, publicly available statistics, and government reports to propose an explanation for the mismatch. Our synthesis of existing knowledge about this mismatch led to the following observations:
- The reasons for the labour market outcomes of young Aboriginal people in northern Canada are not fully understood, though the existing research suggests that certain factors such as early school leaving, early parenthood and an overemphasis on distance-limited employment opportunities are important barriers to their full participation.
- Another important factor, incompletely investigated, is the apparent imbalance in policy attention and program funding. These emphasize training for natural resource sector employment over post-secondary education to prepare youth for work in the public and parapublic sectors.
- The complex opportunity structure facing northern youth is created by many intervenors –all levels of government, small and large corporations, educational facilities at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, non-governmental organizations—and finally by large scale economic forces. The net effect of all these interventions on the life prospects of northern Aboriginal youth or the wellbeing of the northern communities where they live is generally not comprehensively evaluated.
- Variation across northern regions, and within regions across localities, means that labour force planning and programming must take into account the distinctive features of local as well as regional northern labour markets so that they can contribute to sustainable and balanced economic development and self-sufficiency. Institutional innovation and devolution of capacities to the local level is required to empower northern communities to implement their own long-term educational and labour force development plans in a holistic and integrated fashion. The education system and the system for post-secondary academic and vocational training must be linked at the local and regional level in a manner appropriate to the conditions in each place.
- Government programming should be extended from attracting northern Aboriginal youth to resource sector jobs to opening practical paths to sustainable public and para-public sector jobs as well. This would not only expand the range of career options available to young people but also support democratic development and Indigenous self-determination.
- Federal and territorial governments should continue to work to improve access to postsecondary academic education, which is generally required for careers that offer steady employment.
The references related to the project are made available publicly at the Zotero reference manager database (Aboriginal Youth Employment Northern Canada) while the main report and the select short reports on specific topics are presented on this website.
This report provides a greater understanding of how to overcome the labour market challenges facing the young northern Aboriginal workers and the employers operating in the northern Canada. The report is based on a synthesized knowledge from the existing research on northern Aboriginal youth employment and it provides recommendations on the action steps that policy developers and decision makers can take to help improve the labour market participation of young northern Aboriginal workers as well as to improve developing and matching skilled labour with the needs of the prospective employers and the needs of the Aboriginal communities.
A slideshow of the report’s findings can also be viewed here.