Aboriginal inclusion a priority of SIMSA
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | May 29, 2017
The Saskatchewan Industrial & Mining Suppliers Association Inc has made a commitment to promoting Aboriginal employment and support for Aboriginal communities.
The organization published its first Aboriginal Inclusion Guidelines in early April. The guidelines are meant to help its member companies “plan and enact their efforts towards including Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan economic opportunities.”
“There’s a moral reason, it’s just the right thing to do in the first place,” said Eric Anderson, SIMSA’s executive director.
SIMSA’s members are Saskatchewan-based companies who supply services to the mining, oil and gas industries. According to its website, SIMSA’s membership represents over $3 billion in annual revenues.
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Anderson started with the organization in September and began working on the guidelines in October. The guidelines make four main recommendations: an increase to Aboriginal employment, mentoring and training Aboriginal talent, community-investment in Aboriginal service and programs and subcontracting to companies that are inclusive already.
The guidelines also applaud Aboriginal ownership of companies that is 50 per cent or greater. Anderson realizes this might not be possible for some companies but he hopes including it in the guidelines will get them asking the right questions.
“If the Aboriginal ownership of a company is less than 50 per cent...is that ownership really about trying to build First Nation lives and social issues and economic power or is it just to get a checkmark in that box on the procurement contract?” he said. “What is that ownership causing, is it generating economic participation and stability…? The goal is to build sustainable economic and social programs and assistance, not just see cash fly around.”
Anderson consulted with Leanne Bellegarde, director of diversity and inclusion for PotashCorp Saskatchewan, on the guidelines. PCS’s inclusion strategy has been in place for several years already. The corporation requires Aboriginal Inclusion in its procurement policy. Since 2011, 11 per cent of PCS’s new hires have self-declared as Aboriginal.
SIMSA’s membership includes a lot of PotashCorp’s suppliers. Bellegarde was pleased when Anderson reached out for advice.
“We , ‘We’re going to share what we’ve learned with you, not because you have to do exactly what we’ve done but because if like us you’re really trying to figure out how to start doing this thoughtfully and build meaningful relationships and have a meaningful impact, here’s our story,’” she said.
PCS offered Aboriginal awareness training and shared its emerging supply chain strategy in meetings with SIMSA.
One of SIMSA’s members is also pleased with the guidelines. Robert Tebb is president of Xtended Hydraulics & Machine in Regina. His is Métis and says his family has been living in Saskatchewan for six generations. Half of his employees are Aboriginal and many apprentice at his shop so they can get the training they need to get their Journeyman’s licenses.
Tebb is excited about SIMSA’s new strategy and said companies need to consider the future of their workforce. He said with a shortage of labour in the trades and a larger percentage of Indigenous children and youth set to graduate in the coming decade, it just makes sense to hire Aboriginal employees and engage with their cultures.
“So if we can create inclusion…and give those people the opportunities and make them see that there is a brighter future out there than what they’ve seen in the past, I think it’ll create stronger communities,” he said. “I think it’ll create better quality of living for everyone in Saskatchewan and because these resources are coming out of Saskatchewan, shouldn’t Saskatchewan people benefit from that?”