Today in Canada, the need for growth in STEM education is strong, particularly as the need for skilled trades workers in our industries increases. But the statistics are sobering:
- Indigenous youth are the fastest growing demographic in Canada, but high school graduation rates are half the rate for non-Indigenous Canadians.
- Indigenous youth are less likely to pursue and complete post-secondary education than their non-Indigenous peers.
- Indigenous unemployment is double the rate of non-Indigenous households.
There are three initial steps that both educators and industry can take to address these issues:
1. Start young.
Innate knowledge of STEM has been part of the Indigenous experience for centuries. Culturally informed STEM curricula are available, such as the STEM program developed by Actua or bv02’s Tell Me About Math.
2. Bring Indigenous high school students to career events.
A number of youth career conferences take place across the country every year. Talking to a real person in a STEM-based career makes an abstract idea meaningful.
3. Expand post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for Indigenous students
Lack of financial resources is one of the main reasons Indigenous students don’t pursue post-secondary education or training, but funding specifically for Indigenous students is available.
Let’s seize this moment and create the optimal conditions for them to fully contribute to a better future — not only for themselves and their communities, but for the whole of Canada.
Sonia Prevost-Derbecker is Indspire’s Vice President of Education.