Foresight Contributions

Supporting Indigenous Learners Requires an Institute-Wide Commitment

Dr. Larry Rosia, President and CEO, Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Like many global post-secondary institutions that focus on applied education and research, Saskatchewan Polytechnic is committed to ensuring that our learners graduate with the skills that employers want and need.

This is especially true for members of underrepresented groups, such as Indigenous peoples.

Canada’s Indigenous population is its fastest growing segment, accounting for nearly 5 percent of total population in 2016 compared to 3.8 percent in 2006 and 2.8 percent in 1996. [1] In Saskatchewan, the percentage is even higher—16.3 percent. [2]

With 19.5 percent of our student population identifying as Indigenous, [3] Saskatchewan Polytechnic places great value on the success of our Indigenous learners. The Indigenous student experience is central to our Indigenous Student Success Strategy. It is imperative that Indigenous students feel welcome, inspired and empowered, and to know that our campuses are places where they can know they belong.  Each of the Indigenous Student Success Strategy’s four goals—belong, welcome, inspire, and empower—contribute to achieving this overarching goal and to improving the Indigenous student experience.

As a polytechnic, we deliver quality hands-on, technical, industry-focused, and industry-driven training. We understand that employers are eager to hire our Indigenous graduates for several reasons, including a desire to build more diverse workforces, with employees who are representative of the communities where business operations are located. To these employers, and to others across Canada, the growing Indigenous population represents incredible opportunities, from increasing diversity to recruitment for jobs. Because of this, it is important for our institution to not only offer programs, courses, and training for entry level positions, but also to enable those in existing workforces to upskill and reskill.

One example of a relevant new program to address the latter is our new Indigenous Leadership Skills applied certificate program. Offered through our School of Continuing Education, the program is designed to share valuable Indigenous leadership approaches towards maintaining resiliency and building leadership capacity. The certificate can be leveraged by industry to broaden specialized, culturally relevant leadership skills within their workforces or by individuals preparing for their next career move or entrepreneurial venture.

Using real life case studies focused on exceptional Indigenous leaders in an interactive format with fellow learners and instructors, the applied certificate is delivered entirely online to maximize accessibility and flexibility for learners. The program includes eight courses that requires approximately 240 hours to complete. Six of the courses explore standard leadership skills, while two delve deeper into traditional Indigenous leadership and approaches to business-building. Course materials and teaching methods align with Indigenous values, providing a safe, culturally relevant environment for learning.

In this program Saskatchewan Polytechnic partnered with Indigenous Works Canada, a non-profit organization that offers engagement strategies and prosperous partnerships to increase Indigenous engagement in the economy. In-house staff developed the program with the advice and knowledge of Indigenous Chiefs and Knowledge Keepers from across the country.

Among its highlights, the curriculum examines historical and contemporary examples of Indigenous business, entrepreneurship, economic development, and leadership. It also explores the similarities and differences between traditional Indigenous and western leadership styles.

As an institution, we acknowledge generations of Indigenous learners, staff, faculty, and leaders as integral to our post-secondary community. We are also committed to holistically integrating Indigenous ways of knowing, being, teaching and learning throughout all institutional practices, procedures, and services.

Student success and access to education are core principles of membership within the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics. I am proud of the role that Saskatchewan Polytechnic has in serving Canada’s increasingly important and growing Indigenous population.

We would welcome the opportunity to share our commitment to Indigenous learners with other colleges and polytechnics around the world who are working to ensure that the educational needs of underrepresented groups in their jurisdictions are being met.

To download a copy of our Indigenous Student Success Strategy, or to learn more about the Indigenous Leadership Skills Applied Certificate program, visit saskpolytech.ca.

[1] 2016 Census, Statistics Canada

[2] 2016 Census, Statistics Canada

[3] 2019-2020 Saskatchewan Polytechnic Annual Report

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