London business owners looking to hire and diversify their workforce are being encouraged to consider Indigenous employees as an act of reconciliation that organizers say will also be good for the bottom line.
A new program, led by the non-profit employment skills centre Nokee Kwe and supported by the London Chamber of Commerce, hopes to address two issues identified by employers: staff shortages and cultural representation in the workplace.
“Let’s not just envision an inclusive workplace, let’s become that change,” said Sharon Deebrah, the project manager for the First Employ Project for Business Reconciliation. “Collaborating and networking is the key to economic development.”
The corporate sector was called upon in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to actively engage in reconciliation practices, including ensuring Indigenous peoples have equitable access to employment and training.
“Sadly, businesses across the country have not stepped up to their moral obligation under the TRC regulations,” said Graham Henderson, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce.
“We were dismayed to see from a recent study that 31 per cent of businesses do not think that the calls to action applies to them. They thought it was only personal.”
Henderson said of the steps toward reconciliation that have been taken, including land acknowledgements and sharing educational resources, economic reconciliation remains a missing piece.
He hopes by connecting Chamber of Commerce members and others in corporate London to Nokee Kwe’s project, business leaders in London will have an easier time hiring and supporting Indigenous employees.
“Folks want to do this. They just don’t really understand how to do this,” Henderson said.
The first order of business for the First Employ Project for Business Reconciliation is to conduct a survey with employers to understand where they’re at and what they want to know. After that, the data will be used to create recruitment and retention materials.
“I’m very optimistic about this. This is a changing culture and people are far more open to learning after learning the details of the residential schools. People are interested in opening their doors to our community,” Deebrah said.
She said more information for getting involved will be coming soon.
LISTEN: Nokee Kwe organizers and the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce explain the goals
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