Canada has excelled at extracting natural resources from the country, but it has done a subpar job of developing human resources within its borders.
Thus the ongoing push for immigration to offset labour shortages that are being exacerbated by an aging population. That is short-changing a major untapped human resource in Canada: Indigenous youth.
It is also short-circuiting the country’s ability to develop a robust homegrown talent pool.
RBC makes a compelling case for cultivating that talent from within Canada’s borders, especially from within First Nations, and especially for application in the 21st century’s digital economy. Its Building Bandwith: Preparing Indigenous Youth For a Digital Future report notes, for example, that First Nations have Canada’s fastest-growing cohort of youth.
However, as revelations about the damage done to First Nations culture, communities and families from residential schools, poverty and state-sponsored dependency continue to be documented, Indigenous youth remain far behind their non-Indigenous counterparts in the training needed to take control of their economic destinies.
The RBC report points out that only 45% of Indigenous Canadians have a post-secondary education compared with 71% of non-Indigenous Canadians. Their need to embrace higher education in general and digital literacy in particular is acute because, as RBC points out, nearly two-thirds of jobs held by Indigenous workers will soon face dramatic overhaul from robotics, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies.
Meanwhile, Canada’s need for talent in those fields is growing rapidly. There is therefore a mutually beneficial payoff to accelerating the expansion of high-speed broadband internet to all corners of the country and especially into northern and other First Nations communities so that Indigenous youth have the same access to digital economy opportunities as their non-Indigenous counterparts, and Canada’s economy has access to the untapped human resources within those communities.