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Corporate giant Potash Corp committed to Aboriginal employment & involvement

Business
Saskatoon
Socio-economic

With millions of dollars in community investments and programs targeted at benefiting First Nations and Métis people, Saskatchewan corporate giant Potash Corp continues to engage Aboriginals in all aspects of their operations. Over the last five to six years, the company has seen nine per cent hires of voluntary self-identified First Nations and Métis people and has remained committed to including Aboriginals in their employment career opportunities across the province. Potash Corp continues to invest and build partnerships to deepen its impact on the First Nations community whether directly or indirectly with almost 20 per cent of its local charity directed at Aboriginal programs.

Leanne Bellagarde, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Potash Corp says the company is committed to including Aboriginals in every aspects of their operations as this is embedded in the company’s objectives.

Q&A with Leanne Bellagarde, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Potash Corp.

Q. Could you give a brief overview of Potash Corp’s commitment to involve the Aboriginal community in its operations across the province and how it helps with employment within the indigenous community?
A:
Our commitment to Aboriginal people is about including them in many aspects of our operations; through employment opportunities directly with us and through benefits of our community investments, by ensuring that our community investments include donations to programs and services that benefit Aboriginal people both directly and indirectly, as well as supporting specific partnerships with Aboriginal entities like the Saskatoon Tribal Council and educational institutions.

We also support inclusion, not just in employment opportunities or community investment opportunities but through our supply chain opportunities as providers of goods and services directly. We also have a commitment to our own work place preparation in ensuring that our employees are getting familiar, and have opportunities to become familiar, with the historic and contemporary reality of the First Nations and Métis people in the province. This is now embedded in all aspects of our operational procedures.

It’s an operational commitment in human resources through employment, in our community investments, and a commitment to educate our employees about the communities.

Q: What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the organization as a result of this strategy to make inclusion of the Aboriginal community a priority?
A:
Essentially, we have seen over the last five years almost nine per cent of voluntary self-identified First Nations and Métis people who are new direct hires to us. There may be otherpersons who do not self-identify, but we’re able to track up to nine per cent of new hires over the last five years who have voluntarily self-identified as First Nations and Métis. We ensure that career information reaches over 10,000 First Nations and Métis youth and job seekers across the province each year.

In terms of our community investments, we have made significant community investments on programs, which benefit the Aboriginal community over the last five years. On an annual basis, almost 20 per cent of our local giving is to programs and services that benefit First Nations and Métis people directly and indirectly.

Q: What has the response/feedback been like from the Aboriginal community?
A:
The partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council and member nations is one of our earliest and longest partnerships and we’ve invested almost $2 million in programs and services that benefits the member nations. Those programs include everything from mini science programs for kids, skilled boot camps for high school programs to entrepreneurial programs. So, we get very positive feedback, from our partners on what we are doing.

One of the biggest indicators that we have seen over the last year is that many of our suppliers appreciate the wealth and depth of information that we are able to supply them with as they seek their own local Aboriginal content development in their own effort to make them more competitive as suppliers to us.

Q: What are some future plans to further Aboriginal inclusion at Potash Corp?
A: We have developed relationships with many organizations and institutions; we support educational institutions like Aboriginal program initiatives at the University of Saskatchewan so we have a wide range of initiatives that we’ve built over the last years that we continue to engage in.

Q: What is your advice for other companies that are looking to engage more Aboriginal people in their businesses?
A:
For companies that are looking to be good corporate citizens in Saskatchewan, the reality is that First Nations and Métis people have been, will be, and continue to be an important part of this province. In particular, companies should start now, start soft and ensure that First Nations and Métis people are included in all the opportunities of their corporate efforts.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Written by Sasha-Gay Lobban

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