Saskatchewan's First Nations and Métis youth: Untapped potential for province

Sep 19, 2013, 10:00 ET from Conference Board of Canada

Focus on high school graduation and transition to work critical

OTTAWA, Sept. 19, 2013 /CNW/ - Increasing the rate of high school graduation among Saskatchewan's First Nations and Métis populations and helping them transition to work will be a key determinant of the future success of the province, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report for the Saskatchewan Institute. Achieving this reality will take a collective effort by business, government, educators, and community leaders and would produce significant benefits to that province's economy and society.

Saskatchewan's annual real gross domestic product would be $1.8 billion larger by 2035 if the province's Aboriginal people were engaged in the workforce at the same rate as the non-Aboriginal population. Such an achievement would do more than grow the economy, create 15,000 new jobs, and help avert a looming labour shortage; equally important, it would vastly improve the social fabric of the province's First Nations and Métis populations, helping them to awaken their own entrepreneurial and community spirit.

  • By 2030, it is estimated one in every four new people entering Saskatchewan's labour force will have an Aboriginal identity.
  • In 2011, 33 per cent of Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan, between the ages of 25-64, had not completed high school.
  • Stakeholders need to focus on two key priorities: improving secondary school completion and school-to-work transitions.

"Everyone stands to benefit from the successful education of First Nations and Métis people and their greater participation in the labour market, especially these individuals themselves," said Diana Mackay, Director, Saskatchewan Institute. "Saskatchewan's recent economic boom has created an opportunity for government, business, and community leaders to address the challenges associated with engaging First Nations and Métis populations more fully in society."

Over the next decade, Saskatchewan will require thousands more skilled workers. At the same time, Saskatchewan has a young and growing Aboriginal population that could help meet provincial labour shortages. Yet, as a whole, Aboriginal people have lower levels of formal education and are underrepresented in the labour force. In 2011, 33 per cent of Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan between the ages of 25 and 64 had not completed high school. The high school dropout rate for Aboriginal youth is approximately two or three times higher than the Canadian average. However, on average, Aboriginal people who obtain a post-secondary education earn incomes virtually on par - or in the case of Métis people, at an even higher level - than non-Aboriginal people.

Another major challenge is the transition of graduates from school to work. Saskatchewan's businesses and other stakeholders need to be actively involved in helping Aboriginal people move seamlessly from school-to-work, including by providing additional training where needed or by making accommodations that will attract First Nations and Métis youth to the workplace.

The report, Priority Investments in Saskatchewan's First Nations and Métis People: Realizing the Potential, identifies actions for governments, businesses, and communities to improve educational outcomes and establish a smooth school-to-work transition process. Recommendations include:

  • Implementing high but realistic academic standards.
  • Increasing relevance of course content.
  • Increasing access to extracurricular activities.
  • Increasing parental engagement.
  • Increasing employer efforts to engage and train Aboriginal people.

The Saskatchewan Institute is a multi-year initiative of The Conference Board of Canada that focuses exclusively on issues relevant to Saskatchewan. The publication is available at

SOURCE Conference Board of Canada