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Evidence of meeting #24 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was aboriginal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kim Warburton  Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.
Ross Hornby  Vice-President, Government Affairs and Policy, General Electric Canada Inc.
Barb Keenan  Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.
Kelly Lendsay  President and Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Human Resource Council
Peter Dinsdale  Chief Operating Officer, Assembly of First Nations
Elvera Garlow  Representative, Assembly of First Nations
Cheryl McDonald  Representative, Assembly of First Nations

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

On post-secondary education for first nations, all that I've read has said that if first nations students get to the point where they enter into post-secondary education, the success rate is quite high, but it's getting them to that point.

In your situation it's trying to get the intervention, and to make the communities aware of opportunities even before they make that decision as to whether they are going to pursue education or drop out, or whatever their decision might be.

Could you expand a little bit on the aboriginal youth camps you mentioned? How long have they been going? What do they look like? The intent is obviously to make people within those communities aware of careers and opportunities within those communities. What kinds of successes are coming out of those?

4:15 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.

Barb Keenan

To the best of my knowledge—and I will go back and verify this—the camps themselves have been going on for about three or four years, and there are six throughout Canada. They run for about a week and often engage either students from university or some industry people who give up their time to go and work with aboriginal youth around a curriculum to reinforce some of the opportunities that exist if you pursue math and science, and really to get them turned on to learning.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Are they targeted at a specific age group or grade?

4:15 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.

Barb Keenan

I'm going to have to verify that, because I would be guessing.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

That's neat.

Are there other agencies? Are the mining companies doing that kind of stuff too?

4:15 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.

Barb Keenan

Yes, the mining companies—

4:15 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

If I may just add something, GE supports an organization called Actua. Their offices are here in Ottawa. They have a special program for first nations, and last year it supported 20,000 students. They deliver programs in science and technology for 9- to 15-year-olds. The whole purpose is to get kids excited about science and technology, and they do that in a variety of ways.

For first nations, they're also culturally adapted, so for example, kids make gloves out of whale blubber and put their hands into freezing water and understand.

One of the great stories about this is that for one of the programs that was run in the far north—and you never know how many kids are going to come—the first day there were 50. The next day there were 100, and then 150, and then all the elders started coming as well. The comment was that this is what we tell you about climate change, and why we hunt two months earlier, and so on.

This kind of program is having a great impact, and the feedback from the kids in terms of now wanting to do something in science and technology has actually been quite compelling. We fund that program. We're in our sixth year with the organization, and they are increasing the number of outreach programs to first nations in very remote communities. They fly in university students. Many of them are first nations students who are in university, and who then go into the communities to take the camps with the students as well.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

That's totally funded by you guys?

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

It's not totally by us. There are other corporate partners who fund—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Can we get some information on that?

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

Yes. Actually I do have some information, and I'd be happy to give you that.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you, Mr. Cuzner. Your time is up.

We'll move on to Mr. Butt.

February 27th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, both OPG and GE, for being here today, and particularly to GE whose Canadian head office is in my riding in Mississauga. It's nice to have Kim and Ross here. It's nice to see you again, and I very much appreciate the great corporate citizenship and leadership GE and OPG have taken in the various communities where you are operating.

Now that the commercial is over, we'll get to the questions.

I was quite interested in what you said about, what I call, two potential types of skilled workers in these remote communities. One is young people going through school right now, and the other is those who have either completed or left post-secondary education, who are adults now, and who are either unemployed or don't have the skill level that would allow them to be hired to work in some of these companies, because the skills required are at a certain level and they don't have that skill level now.

My first question is about our younger people. I think you mentioned the very high dropout rate from high school in some of these remote rural and aboriginal communities. I'm wondering if you've made any recommendations to the provincial and territorial governments, which have the primary responsibility for off-reserve education in this particular case, as to whether or not they should be looking at it, and whether we should be encouraging provinces to amend some of the curriculum so that we're focusing a little bit more on skilled trade courses and apprenticeship-type programs when young people are 15, 16, or 17, rather than waiting for the post-secondary level.

I guess my view around that is that perhaps if these young people felt there was a job for them at the end of the day, the dropout rate wouldn't be there. Maybe they don't think reading Shakespeare—although some may think reading Shakespeare is important.... Maybe that focus isn't really what's going to motivate them to continue to stay in school and then be that skilled worker when they leave post-secondary education at 17, 18, or 19, depending on what province it is.

Did you look at that at all in talking to our friends in the provinces and territories just generally around curriculum and how maybe we could focus more towards moving young people into this skilled work?

If anyone wants to.... I think GE did a little bit more work, maybe, than OPG did on that.

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

We didn't get into the big details around the curriculum. What I can share with you are the comments we heard from business, and also again some of the municipal leaders, around the curriculum. There were a couple of things. One is about curriculum that relates to people and where they live. That was a comment that was made a fair amount. So your comment about Shakespeare....

Also there were comments about the fact that they are living in the far north, so it would be good to have a curriculum that relates to their environment. Also there were a couple of comments around language. Having curriculum that is in two languages was also important.

The other comment I would make is that a number of mining companies that we talked to, who hire lots of biologists, said to us that you will never get a better person than those who are first nations or Inuit working in the field along with the companies. In all likelihood, they haven't finished high school but have the best sense, absolutely. So they work with individuals who have that capability and ability, recognizing that these folks will never want to be in school and pursuing a degree in that. They are making accommodation on staff, and recognizing that there isn't necessarily the literacy and numeracy skills there, but there are fantastic capabilities.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Okay.

Barb.

4:25 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.

Barb Keenan

For us it's more from the province of Ontario perspective. We were engaged in work with the Electricity Sector Council, where actually a large focus was put on the need to make skilled trades sexy again, and to get out there and really raise awareness around the opportunities and how, in fact, you will be able to get a job and that's what you should take in high school, because there's going to be such a paucity of those skills moving forward.

On a broader level that was done, and specifically in Ontario, there was a package put together that was a joint effort between unions and employers to get out to high schools and to give good descriptions of all the things. That was not specific to first nations; it was a broader approach called Bright Futures.

More specifically on the first nations front, what we have been doing within the communities where we operate plants and specifically have proximity to first nations is going out and actually walking through the careers that will be available, the types of skills we will be hiring, and what it will take from an education perspective. Then we follow it up, and we work with the local colleges to try to ensure they appreciate where those opportunities exist. It's really a lot of awareness raising.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Am I done, Mr. Chairman?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

You can go ahead if you feel you want to ask—

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

If it's less than 30 seconds or something, then I can yield my time.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Go ahead.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Okay, that's fine.

Of course, the second half of that was what about the age groups that are beyond secondary school, who perhaps are in a low-skilled job now, or are unemployed? We have an opportunity for a company that comes into town, and that's going to do work, set up a new plant, do mining, or do whatever else there.

Are there any specific things—I'm sure you've mentioned a few others, but I'll give you a chance if you've missed any—that we can be doing that would say to that person that this is an opportunity for them to get in the door now? What are the barriers to that happening? We are providing some apprenticeship grant money and loan money to encourage people to go. What is the major stumbling block, from your view, in moving that person into the skilled labour force?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Communications and Public Relations, General Electric Canada Inc.

Kim Warburton

Again, sometimes it's not all about money, it's match. What we heard was about the need to work with the business community, the individuals, and the community as a whole, to figure out what the trades and the jobs are and then match that funding. For example, don't have a whole bunch of programs that are training people to do something if those jobs will never exist, but really look at the economic opportunity and match it.

It wasn't always about money. It was about getting a better alignment and match by having more people at the table helping to make that decision.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Ms. Keenan, do you want to make a short response?

Go ahead.

4:25 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer, Ontario Power Generation Inc.

Barb Keenan

One was the employment readiness course we talked about. If people had been out of the workforce for a period of time, it would provide that support in terms of reintegration.

The second point was around the placement opportunities, providing for those points-in-time placements, where people could really get a chance to get back into that work environment and try out the skills to see if there's a fit. We found that was very advantageous and we had a lot of success with that.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much.

I'd like to thank the witnesses for a very interesting exchange, and some excellent questions and responses. Thank you very much for coming before the committee.

We'll now suspend for a few moments.

Thank you.