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National Aboriginal Day: Celebrating the future of Aboriginal youth in STEM

June 20, 2013

Today, on National Aboriginal Day, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada calls on all Canadians to recognize “the rich contribution Aboriginal people have made to Canada.”

There is indeed a lot to celebrate on this day.

But today, I ask you to join me in taking it one step further: While we celebrate the unique achievements of Aboriginal people,  let’s also think about the great contributions and tremendous impact Aboriginal people will make in Canada.

As innovation shepherds industry and business forward, the economic landscape will evolve to be more entrenched in resources and more reliant on technology. The workforce will change along with it, calling for a variety of new skills – skills in STEM.

Today, I look forward to the important role Aboriginal youth – Canada’s fastest growing population – will play in driving this economy and in bolstering this high-skilled job market.

There remain significant barriers to connecting Aboriginal youth to this new economy. We must invest resources in ensuring Aboriginal youth connect to these economic development opportunities and to the education that will link them to these careers.

Actua’s National Aboriginal Outreach Program is a leading, transformational STEM engagement program that breaks through these barriers, delivering confidence-building STEM curriculum to 30,000 Aboriginal youth across Canada, each year.

Our members have strong relationships with more than 200 Aboriginal communities across every province and territory, from urban centres to First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in far-reaching parts of the country. We have spoken with parents, teachers, community leaders and local Elders. No matter the location, we continue to hear the overwhelming demand to engage Aboriginal youth in STEM.

Through the National Aboriginal Outreach Program’s community-based approach, the curriculum developed is geographically customized and culturally relevant. This approach is the key to engaging Aboriginal youth. To get there, we build partnerships with Aboriginal communities and actively involve Aboriginal Elders, professionals and volunteers. They work with us to provide a safe and positive learning environment for Aboriginal youth. We also collaborate with First Nation organizations, Friendship Centres and Hamlet offices to facilitate the sharing of traditional knowledge, connecting Aboriginal ways of knowing with science, and connecting community leaders with our outreach team and instructors.

At Actua, we believe that our country’s talent bank will be our greatest advantage, and we believe that young Canadians are a key element of our valuable talent. We will continue to break through the barriers to ensure all youth, including Aboriginal youth, have access to the educational experiences to be that talent, to know their ideas count, to fulfill their critical role in Canada and in the world.

We’ve been delivering the National Aboriginal Outreach Program for over a decade to communities across Canada. And, as the program’s young participants grow older, we are really starting to see the impact it makes. It is something else to celebrate this National Aboriginal Day.