Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Research teams from three Maritime universities at StFX to look at labour readiness of First Nation youth

January 23rd, 2017
Front row, l-r, Tara Julian, Paq’tnkek First Nation, Mary Jane Paulette, Paq’tnkek First Nation, and Ann Sherman, UNB. Back: Jeff Landine, UNB, Jane McMillan, StFX, Amanda Benjamin, UNB, Mary Oxner, StFX, Gary Evans, UPEI, Denise Moore, project manager, and Jeff Orr, StFX. Missing is Ron MacDonald, UPEI.

How can secondary and post-secondary education institutions support bridging the skills and potential of the growing young Aboriginal population with labour market needs in Atlantic Canada?

That was the topic of day-long discussions at StFX on Jan. 13, 2017 as research teams from three Maritime universities gathered to look at the labour readiness of First Nation youth and the importance that these youth have the education and qualifications to meet the demands of today’s economy.

The project, Pathway for Aboriginal Youth from High School into Post-Secondary Education and Workforce Engagement, involves researchers from StFX, the lead institution; the University of New Brunswick (UNB); and the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). It is funded by the Atlantic Aboriginal Economic Development Integrated Research Program.

“This project has the potential to impact policy and processes at educational institutions and First Nation communities throughout the Atlantic provinces. Today was the first time the inter-university research team has meet in person. With the assistance of individuals from Paq’tnkek First Nation who provided context, the research team made significant progress in solidifying our research approach and scope,” says StFX Schwartz School of Business professor Dr. Mary Oxner.

Dr. Ann Sherman, Dean of UNB’s Faculty of Education, said the project is essential.

“The First Nation population across Canada is the fastest growing population. Already there are significant differences that exist for First Nation youth. All kinds of barriers exist. We’re looking at ways to break down those barriers, and create accessibility.”

She says the researchers involved have long-standing connections with First Nation communities in their respective areas, an aspect that is key to the project.

“The research has to be community-based,” she says. “The community knows they will have real ownership.”

Both Dr. Sherman and Dr. Gary Evans, a professor in the School of Business at UPEI, say that working together gives the researchers access to more comparative data and gives them a much broader view of labour readiness across the Atlantic provinces.

Dr. Evans says coming together to meet face-to-face is important so that they all head off in the same direction and create comparable pieces of work. “We need to all have a solid grounding together so we’re comparing the same things. We may get different results, but we know we approached it the same way,” he says.


The researchers say sustained employment plays a key role in the economic prospects of First Nation communities, and education plays an important role in the pathway to meaningful and sustained employment for Aboriginal youth.

Their research is expected to create a comprehensive listing of programs to assist Aboriginal youth in their journey to sustained employment, to identify pathways from high school to career including the necessity of post-secondary education, and challenges and resources along the way.

It’s also expected to create a network of university and community-based partners focused on pathways to appropriate education achievements leading to meaningful employment for First Nation youth; and to provide an understanding of the strategies integrated into and promoted by post-secondary institutions.

Team members say the research is critically important given that education is the most important determinant of labour market outcomes, and given that Aboriginal people, the fastest growing population in the country, will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping the economic future of Canada.

The research team members include:

From StFX: Dr. Mary Oxner (Associate Professor, Schwartz School of Business), Dr. L. Jane McMillan (Chair, Anthropology Department); Dr. Jeff Orr (Dean, Faculty of Education).

From UNB: Dr. Ann Sherman (Dean, Faculty of Education); Dr. Amanda Benjamin (Associate Professor, Faculty of Education); and Dr. Jeff Landine (Associate Professor, Faculty of Education).

From UPEI: Dr. Ronald MacDonald (Dean, Faculty of Education); Dr. Gary Evans (Associate Professor, School of Business).


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