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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:
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.
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Lauren Botha, Executive Communications