KAMLOOPS — In a recent report The Centre for the Study of Living Standards outlined the fact that Indigenous people in Canada are underemployed, but the potential impact those Indigenous Canadians could have in emerging job markets could be quite significant. Here in Kamloops, Arrow Transport is one company who has identified a need in their labour force and has partnered with the local indigenous community to fill that need.
James Manuel is about to embark on a new career opportunity. Manuel is currently training for his Class 1 drivers test. Once he passes that, he’ll start further training with Arrow Transportation Systems, as the first person to enter the Driver Training Partnership Program Arrow offers to Indigenous driver trainees.
“I just think it’s a great opportunity to work in my traditional territory, and… be that first person to go through and be that flagship person [in the program],” Manuel told CFJC Today.
The program is just one aspect of the working relationship Arrow Transportation Systems has tried to foster with Indigenous communities, throughout the areas they service.
“In the resource sector nowadays, obviously First Nations are a big part of that,” Arrow Regional Manager Kevin Gayfer explained. “We want to partner with those communities and make successful business together.”
The relationship between Arrow and local Indigenous communities has also been strengthened by Leonard Jackson, owner of BCT Projects, who has experience working with both industry and Indigenous communities.
“I guess the difference in this situation is there was an extremely winning partner in Arrow, who was willing to provide this opportunity in full-time positions of employment which really is the key piece to the whole scenario,” Jackson explained.
Professional drivers are a hot commodity in today's job market, with many close to retirement age, which is one of the main reasons Arrow decided to partner with Indigenous communities.
“The labour market now is really tight,” Gayfer said. “There’s not a lot of professional drivers. It’s an old demographic.”
Jackson says he can see more industries trying to tap into Indigenous communities to try and create similar opportunities.
“Arrow’s done an extremely good job of identifying these people and that opportunity,” Jackson said. “It really can be transferred to any industry, if you think about it, and sort of match the template Arrow has created.”
For Manuel, this training opportunity improves his ability to earn a good wage - the bonus is he’s also doing something he enjoys.
“Not everybody wants to work hard,” Manuel said with a laugh. “Like, work laborious jobs, and work hard. Some people may just want to drive. I know that’s what I want to do now. I think this is a great opportunity.”
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