How do you keep a ten-year-old program fresh and up-to-date?
Listen to the young, of course!
From Feb 25 to 27, Suncor hosted 27 youth from Aboriginal communities near our operations at the Suncor Indspired Youth Experience 2015, as part of the annual Indspire Awards. These awards are given out to Aboriginal Canadians who have made remarkable impacts on their communities or made significant accomplishment in their chosen field. The youth are selected by their communities for a variety of reasons – some as good students, others are volunteers, but all are considered young leaders.
Why do we do it?
The ability to access a quality education impacts the country’s future skilled workforce, helps sustain communities (particularly in remote areas) and develops a diverse range of leaders.
Currently, there is a 29% gap in high school completion rates between Aboriginal Canadians and the general population. Suncor is working closely with Aboriginal communities and educational partners to close this gap.
We bring these young leaders to local post-secondary schools like SAIT and Mount Royal University in Calgary. Through this experience the youth gain a better understanding of what opportunities are possible if they stay in school. Before the formal Award ceremony, we host a luncheon and connect the youth with the Awards recipients who have made a difference to their communities and their culture.
What did we do differently this year?
We know there is both power and persuasion when you share your stories. In this case, the journey from obtaining post-secondary education to getting job. This year we invited a few of our own Aboriginal employees, some local post-secondary Aboriginal students and Suncor leaders to come together and discuss subjects such as resilient communities, environmental issues and uncovering our unconscious biases.
“Our communities become stronger when youth can realize their potential. This trip is about showing the youth some of the possibilities and also breaking down barriers, such as what it’s like to work for a big company,” says Rebecca Sullivan, general manager of Stakeholder and Aboriginal Relations for Suncor.
The luncheon co-emcee was Jasmine Feather Dionne, from the Fort McMurray 1935 Metis Local. Jasmine attended Suncor’s Indspire trip in 2013 and credits this experience as the reason she pursued entry into the Law and Society program at the University of Calgary.
“I challenge the youth here today to think about your potential, what or who inspires you most to be the person you are today and the person you want your future self to be after this experience,” said Jasmine.
And many of the youth took up the task. When asked about the most significant thing she learned on the trip, Destiny Smorong from Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, wrote, “Don’t be ashamed of your culture! Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love.”
Maybe listening to the young will inspire us all!