Co-Operators partners with Indigenous organizations to launch Youth Employability Program

Co-Operators partners with Indigenous organizations to launch Youth Employability Program

Program supports Co-operators reconciliation strategy, a multi-year commitment to truth and reconciliation

Co-operators today launched its Indigenous Youth Employability Initiative, a $1 million commitment to support cultural safety, personal resilience, and employability of Indigenous youth at Co-operators, the broader co-operative sector, and beyond. The employability component is a core component of the company’s three-year reconciliation strategy that aligns the organization’s corporate goals with its long-term collaboration and partnership with Indigenous employees, organizations, and communities.

Youth voices are shaping the design of this initiative as a result of the Indigenous Youth Employability Gathering, a four-day event that was hosted by Co-operators, The Howl Experience, and the Nakoda Youth Council in October 2023. A total of 51 participants attended the Gathering, including 26 youth participants along with various community partners representing 20 communities and six provinces.

“The Gathering highlighted for us the challenges that Indigenous youth face in entering the workforce, from language barriers and transportation to housing obstacles, and the opportunities we have to address those,” said Rob Wesseling, President and CEO, Co-operators. “Both the employability initiative and our broader reconciliation strategy, aim to help tackle these challenges and I look forward to continuing our journey of learning and listening to elevate Indigenous voices and experiences both in and outside of Co-operators.”

Participants at the Gathering called out cultural awareness and understanding in the workplace as key issues, noting that designated cultural spaces, Indigenous mentors, and opportunities for cultural practices should all be a focus of the employability initiative. As it implements its Reconciliation strategy, Co-operators will act as a pilot organization for implementing the recommendations from the Gathering. These also include:

  • Reconvening the participants to maintain momentum
  • Establishing a mentorship program for Indigenous youth
  • Empowering youth to lead employability conversations in their own communities
  • Finding ways to help youth tell their stories to more employers
  • Creating more opportunities like the Gathering to support youth in being heard
  • Identifying ways for participating organizations to support youth with wraparound services.

“We share with Co-operators the vision that everyone can contribute to improve the lives of others in their communities,” said Adam Robb, Founder and Co-Director of the Howl Experience. “The Gathering and the employability initiative will result in programs that respect and promote Indigenous cultures and voices in workplaces. We’re proud to partner with an organization like Co-operators to bring these to life for the next generation of Indigenous youth entering the workforce.”

Over the next three years, Co-operators will announce a number of initiatives and changes to its business practices to align its operations with its reconciliation strategy. These fall under three pillars that will guide the organization’s commitment to truth and reconciliation:

  1. Respecting Indigenous ways as a business
  2. Embracing truth and reconciliation as a financial services co-operative and investor
  3. Collaborating, building bridges, and fostering friendships with Indigenous communities.

“Participating in the creation of our Reconciliation strategy and starting to witness it come to life within our workplace gives me confidence that we are working towards a more inclusive future for our company and the communities in which we live,” said Cory Benson, Claims Representative II at Co-operators.

Action items in the strategy that Co-operators will implement in the next three years include, for example:

  • Increasing career opportunities for Indigenous talent through intentional partnerships with local Indigenous employment organizations
  • Creating an Indigenous advisory forum
  • Engaging and consulting with Indigenous neighbours, clients, members, employees, and partners about their needs and challenges to finding appropriate insurance coverage

To review the Co-operators Reconciliation strategy, including actions and measures of progress, in full, please visit here.

About Co–operators

Co–operators is a leading Canadian financial services co–operative, offering multi-line insurance and investment products, services, and personalized advice to help Canadians build their financial strength and security. Co–operators has more than $62 billion in assets under administration and has been providing trusted guidance to Canadians for the past 79 years. The organization is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. Achieving carbon neutral equivalency in 2020, the organization is committed to net-zero emissions in its operations and investments by 2040, and 2050, respectively. Co–operators is also ranked as a Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizen in Canada. For more information, please visit:

SOURCE The Co-operators Group Limited


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