Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo arrives at a news conference in Ottawa January 25, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA - Aboriginal workers could help labour shortages for Canadian business but poor education and lack of job experience hinder their success, according to a new report.
The Conference Board of Canada (CBOC) issued a report Wednesday suggesting policy-makers would be economically wise to improve educational outcomes for First Nations people.
"Soon, Canada will not have enough workers with the right skills to meet its labour needs," CBOC research associate Alison Howard said. "The aboriginal population, including Inuit, Metis, and First Nations, is the fastest-growing cohort in Canada, but it is underrepresented in the labour force compared to the non-aboriginal population."
The NDP's aboriginal critic said the feds know enormous issues plague the First Nations education system but action isn't happening fast enough.
Statistics Canada data from 2006 suggests 34% of aboriginals aged 25 to 64 had not completed high school.
"You actually can't start talking about high school graduation unless you talk about what is happening from kindergarten to, say, Grade 8," Crowder said. "If you actually don't get the kids earlier ... they're dropping out as soon as they can."
A recent Senate committee report called for a complete overhaul of First Nations education, citing that it operates in "crisis."
A national joint panel commissioned by the feds and the Assembly of First Nations also highlighted the funding gap between provincial and reserve schools.
The federal government, which has committed to crafting a First Nations Education Act by 2014, maintains it is on the right course. The Tories spend $1.5 billion a year on First nations education and recently announced $275 million in new spending in the 2012 budget.
"As the Canadian labour market tightens and the natural resource sectors expand, we have a unique opportunity for an educated, skilled aboriginal population to become full participants in all that Canada's vibrant economy has to offer," Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said in a statement.
"Our government is seizing this opportunity by making significant investments in First Nations education; from building 37 new schools and carrying out major renovations in dozens more, to working in partnership with the provinces and First Nations across the country."
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo said the federal commitment needs to go further, citing that $500 million a year is needed to bring First Nations schools up to provincial standards.