Everyone agrees we should “hire Cree.” But why don’t the Cree entities do it? What are the costs of not hiring Cree? These issues are addressed from the students’ perspective in this article, which generated a lot of discussion in the Cree entities when it was passed around last fall. The article asks what the future holds for students when they graduate, especially if Cree entities won’t give them a chance and prefer hiring outside consultants. The Board of Compensation is reviewing the students’ concerns and proposals.
This is to address an issue that rests on the minds of several post-secondary students. For several years now, we have witnessed an enormous dependence on consultants to help us organize our entities and consequently ourselves as First Nations.
We do not question that there is a need for professional help. What worries students is how our entities and organizations regularly engage consultants without prior assessment of the competencies that are readily available in our Cree labour market.
We would like to point out that we do not wish to lay blame on anyone, as such an approach is not constructive and seldom leads to a worthwhile solution. This note is merely to share some ideas on how we can better utilitize our Cree human resources.
First, let’s begin by outlining some of the problems that can result from a lack of usage of our Cree human resources. An illustration and an analysis of its full impact are needed to properly assess the situation. (Please note that this is simply an approximate evaluation based on what our acquired knowledge allows us to analyze. Certainly, there is a need to study the problem further.)
In this section, we begin by addressing the problems from the students’ point of view. We will also look at this picture from the social, economic, cultural, political and financial points of view. This approach will allow us to better explain the negative consequences of the lack of usage of students and graduates. Then we will examine certain options which all Cree entities and organizations can further consider.
For the student:
Most students leave the comfort and security of their homes and families in their desire to acquire a higher education and gain knowledge that will contribute to the betterment of the Cree Nation. They often make sacrifices such as neglecting their social life, facing the cultural shock of living in the south, financial difficulties (especially single-parent students), isolation and loneliness. Some can only imagine the psychological and physical effects of intensive studies such as all-night study and writing sessions.
Others know exactly what it is like to forcibly isolate yourself in order to connect with the world of intense academic learning. There is usually no or little interaction with other human beings for hours and/or days. On the positive side, some students come out with greater self-discipline, a stronger character and a university degree.
On the negative side, they sometimes perceive their education as being devalued when they witness consultants being hired over them for work that they are capable of doing. The Cree students’ investment in their education and their potential are wasted if they cannot practice what they learned.
The social impact:
We are witnessing a change in the values of Cree society. There is a renewed hope in the benefits of education. Until recently, we looked at institutions as the enemy of everything that is Indian. Now, we look at them as a tool of empowerment that leads to self-determination. Here the problem lies between society’s hopes and dreams and the reality of human-resource management practices in the Cree Nation.
If we keep assigning students to demeaning tasks that are not related to their field of study, we are wasting their knowledge and are de-motivating resourceful individuals.
This inevitably conveys mixed messages from the Cree entities to Cree students as to the value of higher education, career orientation and the value of relevant work experience.
The economic impact:
When Cree entities constantly outsource certain tasks and work, they also invest in the non-Cree society’s economy. When our people do not have buying power that comes from gainful income, they cannot help generate a spin-off in our local or regional economies. In short, it does not allow for our people to become independent from the system.
Canada and Quebec understood that the only way they can compete in a global economy is to invest in their human resources. This is their competitive instrument: productivity. If we invest in our people, we can help them gain more skills that will eventually lead them to achieve higher productivity levels.
Motivated workers are the ones who produce the most. Give a student the challenge and watch the results of your investments. This can be referred to as return on investment.
The cultural impact:
Different cultures have different values. We all know that we regularly experience internal conflicts when we deal with different societies’ cultures. We do not necessarily share the same points of view. When we do, it is not always for the same reasons. It is the same where consultants are concerned.
They see matters from a perspective of their cultural values. This is normal. We do the same. There is also no better reward than when we can get one to understand our culture and values.
The problem is that the recommendations of consultants may clash with our culture and our values.
Who can better provide and recommend solutions than someone who has gained the necessary knowledge to analyze problems within a certain cultural context than someone who happens to be a student with the same cultural background and understandings as the Cree client?
The political impact:
How often have we heard the phrase: “Hire Cree”? Our leaders promote it and create a vision. Consequently, this vision creates expectations. When their offices fail to carry this through, the leaders begin to lose credibility in the eyes of the Cree Nation. Once you lose trust of the people, it is often difficult to get it back. The students are informed and are very critical. They see the inconsistencies in what is being said and what is actually being done.
The financial impact:
How many students could have been hired if there had not been so much spent on consultants? Large amounts are being shuffled out of the Cree economy as payment to consultants. This hurts our organizations in the long-term. When the consultant leaves, the competency and the expertise may also be lost to the Crees. Cree students stay and seek advancement from within the Cree Nation.
The monies that are invested on a student/graduate can be absorbed later on from his or her increased productivity level. Your investment becomes your added value to the Cree Nation. A good marketing strategy for your company.
IDEAS FOR CHANGE
This illustrates the effects of management decisions on the surrounding environment. The interaction between the various components of the environment affect Cree entities and organizations in return. The negative effects of constant outsourcing become a vicious circle and the situation may deteriorate before it improves if we do not adopt alternate solutions to organizational problems. The following are some ideas and suggestions for change.
Creation of a data bank:
A student employment agency would be able to gather background information on the skills and knowledge of students and graduates which would be readily available as part of the Cree labour market. Such a system or set-up would also be able to manage summer student placements with respect to the needs of the organizations and interests of the students. It could also conduct permanent job placements for graduates. Counseling and orientation services could also be provided and include career orientation for those students seeking advancement within the Cree Nation work force.
Another possibility is for students and graduates to go internationally to gain various and relevant work experience. The possibilities are endless.
When an organization must rely on outside professional help, we could assign a student to work with the consultant This is also an efficient practical learning experience for all Cree human resources.
Another approach could be, when we have positions that are filled by Cree people, to assign a student to an appropriate mentor. This could be a good and productive learning experience for both. Students and new graduates need relevant work experience where they can apply what they have learned. Such a work opportunity must be created by the political, administrative and business leadership of the Cree world.
Thank you for having read and considered these ideas.
(Kathy Shecapio, Stella Lameboy And Lillian Brien Are From The Cree Student Association Of Greater Montreal)