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National skills agenda required to prepare Indigenous youth for digital future: RBC report

Press Release

  • Nearly two-thirds of jobs held by Indigenous workers are at risk of a skills overhaul;
  • Indigenous youth less confident in their digital literacy skills compared to non-Indigenous youth;
  • Less than 25 per cent of households in First Nations communities have access to high-speed internet;
  • The success of Indigenous youth will be key to Canada’s success – and to the ongoing process of reconciliation into the 2030s and beyond.

TORONTO, July 13, 2021 – Indigenous youth are growing four times faster than Canada’s non-Indigenous population, representing a vital influx of entrepreneurs, innovators, managers and business owners for years to come. But a new RBC report says many are not being fully prepared to seize the opportunities of the country’s rapidly changing economy.

“Over the next decade, 750,000 young Indigenous Peoples will move through the education system and into early careers, at a time when advanced technologies are transforming every sector in the country,” said John Stackhouse, Senior Vice-President, RBC. “Preparing Indigenous youth for this digital future is essential to Canada’s long-term prosperity and the ongoing process of reconciliation.”

There are reasons to be ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the prospects of Canada’s fastest growing cohort of youth. Indigenous People are being drawn into the broader economy more than ever before, demonstrated through increased Indigenous ownership of resources and infrastructure, increased presence in key supply chains and new partnerships between private companies and communities. Moreover, many Indigenous youth are also confident in their foundational skills essential to succeed in the workplace, such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

But Building Bandwidth – Preparing Indigenous youth for a digital future found that many Indigenous youth lacked confidence in their digital literacy skills, lagging 13 per cent behind non-Indigenous peers in an RBC Future Launch survey.

“Narrowing this gap in digital skills would enable Indigenous youth to unlock a host of opportunities in the future of work and, in turn, significantly increase their earning potential,” said Stackhouse. “More importantly, access to a meaningful career helps foster a stronger connection to community, and builds greater confidence and optimism for the future. A national skills agenda for Indigenous youth is crucial to building a more prosperous and inclusive Canada.”

Through an 18-month consultation with Indigenous youth and leaders, educators, and employers, the report outlines 8 recommendations that might help to prepare Indigenous youth for the digital future. They include:

  • Fulfilling the federal commitment to provide high-speed to every Canadian by 2030, prioritizing underserviced Indigenous communities.
  • Increasing access to venture capital, with special focus on the new Indigenous Growth Fund, a $150 million commitment from the Government of Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada and other government agencies.
  • Allocating additional funding for digital devices and technology courses in primary and secondary schools, both on- and off-reserve, under the transfer formulas used by Indigenous Services Canada and the provincial and territorial education ministries.
  • Closing the gaps in access to work-integrated learning for Indigenous youth, by entrenching the subsidy for Indigenous students under the federal Student Work Placement program, expanding remote WIL options and through matching tools between employers and candidates.
  • Expanding academic bridging programs at universities, colleges and apprenticeship programs that boost fundamental and digital skills for Indigenous learners and improve outcomes in higher learning.
  • Expanding representation of Indigenous culture, languages and content in online spaces by making digital-first approaches a priority for arts councils, and increasing the reach of Indigenous social media influencers who are promoting their culture online.

The report cites if Indigenous populations were able to participate in the economy at a level matching the average income of the Canadian worker, the country could generate an additional $67 billion in GDP.

Stackhouse added that, “at a time when many Canadians are reflecting on our recent history, and ongoing relationship with Indigenous Peoples, our collective efforts take on a heightened meaning and importance. A national skills agenda will ensure our fastest growing youth population are provided with the skills and opportunities to participate fully in the economy, and in turn, help Canada grow sustainably well into the future.”

About the report
This RBC report was developed within its Humans Wanted research program, which looks at the skills challenge ahead for young Canadians, and identified the skills that will prepare Canada’s youth to thrive in the workplaces of the future. It acknowledges generations of Indigenous youth have faced unique barriers. In many places, pressing needs like clean water, appropriate housing and equal education continue to go unmet. RBC is committed to the reconciliation journey, and for over 25 years has been working on specific initiatives with Indigenous Peoples and communities to generate genuine and meaningful change. For this report, we focus more narrowly on where we believe the broader economy is heading and what we feel needs to happen in order for Indigenous youth to access the opportunities of the 2020s.

About RBC
Royal Bank of Canada is a global financial institution with a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance. Our success comes from the 86,000+ employees who leverage their imaginations and insights to bring our vision, values and strategy to life so we can help our clients thrive and communities prosper. As Canada’s biggest bank, and one of the largest in the world based on market capitalization, we have a diversified business model with a focus on innovation and providing exceptional experiences to our 17 million clients in Canada, the U.S. and 27 other countries. Learn more at‎

We are proud to support a broad range of community initiatives through donations, community investments and employee volunteer activities. See how at

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Media inquiries:
Lauren Botha, Executive Communications


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