Spring Town Hall
Featuring Fred Meier, President and CEO, and Jamie Wilson, Vice President, Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development
Moderated by Nadine Ogborn, Director, Centre for Learning and Program Excellence
Q&A Table of Contents
- Strategic Plan and Living Our Commitments
- Indigenous Strategy, Research, and Business Development Portfolio
- Advancing Indigenous Education
- Getting to Know Jamie Wilson
- EDI in Recruitment and Retention
- Re-entry to Campus and the Fall 2022 Term
Strategic Plan and Living Our Commitments
We last connected as a College community for a Town Hall when we launched RRC Polytech’s Strategic Plan back in October. Can you give an overview of what’s happened since launching our bold new vision?
Under the first commitment, Transforming Our Learning Model, most of the work we’ve accomplished to date has been developing an Academic and Research Plan, which will launch soon. Thank you to Dr. Christine Watson for leading that process. We also continue to move ahead with course-based registration, and I know there’s been a lot of active discussion around fall planning, and what blended learning will look like going forward. All those activities reflect progress on that commitment.
On our second commitment, Pursuing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Truth and Reconciliation, in Everything We Do, there’s also been a tremendous amount of work underway. Jamie’s new role will obviously shape a lot of that. We have a new Knowledge Keeper’s Council, and Ms. Una and Elder Paul, our Elders here at RRC Polytech, are involved in that. We’ll bring in Knowledge Keepers from other areas to help us shape our academic programming and provide advice to senior leadership. We’re also working with a group called AMIK to design strategy around recruitment and retention of Indigenous employees. Different groups within the College are also moving that commitment forward – for example, the Immersive Stories Program where members of our community shared their lived experiences.
Under our last pillar, Fostering Partnerships, we launched our new fundraising campaign this November. Our goal is to raise $60 million, and we’ve raised $15 million to date.
Of course, there’s so much more we’ve accomplished on each of these priorities, and I want to thank everyone for the great work. We’re making progress because each of you is moving these commitments forward.
Jamie Wilson joining us as Vice-President of Indigenous Strategy and Business Development allows us to move forward even more confidently on these commitments.
What is RRC Polytech’s strategy for advancing EDI awareness and supports for students under the strategic plan?
One of the things that Carla Kematch has been leading and advocating is the use of the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation training, and we’ve rolled that out to our staff and partnered with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce to offer it to their members as well. More businesses are asking us for access to it. We’ve also committed to making it available to our students. Another way that we’re advancing EDI awareness is by including Indigenous content in our curriculum. ACME (Applied Commerce and Management Education) programs have already begun Indigenizing their curriculum, for instance.
To further support the expansion and embedding of EDI practices into our corporate culture and to catalyze change, over the past year, our Diversity Champions have been working with their department or program area leadership teams to develop Departmental EDI Action Plans. Each plan was built around the five pillars of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, and include specific actions that will be taken throughout 2022 and beyond.
How do you see our work unfolding in the first year of the strategic plan as we embed Truth and Reconciliation into everything we do?
Incredible work has been done by Carla Kematch, Director, Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement and her team to build strong relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous students, staff, faculty and community. We need to build on this momentum. Stay tuned for more from Carla and her area as they work to develop the framework on this strategy and will be looking to engage with staff for feedback and collaboration.
The College continues to expand resources aimed at embedding TRC in everything we do. For example, we are in the final stages of making 4 Seasons of Reconciliation (and accompanying resources) available to students.
We are also excited to share that the talented team in eTV led by Chris Basarowich is collaborating with Carla Kematch and her team to create a Truth and Reconciliation Immersion Room sensory experience that will build upon the knowledge shared in the 4 Seasons. A rich mosaic of audio, visuals and personal testimonials will weave together a powerful narrative to create opportunities to learn, reflect, and take action on the principles of Truth and Reconciliation.
The College is also in the process of developing an Indigenous student and staff recruitment and retention strategy.
Each of us has an individual responsibility to take action and educate ourselves on the history and impacts of colonialism. Visit the Truth and Reconciliation webpage on Staff Forum for more information.
How will the Calls to Action for Truth and Reconciliation be addressed?
Truth and Reconciliation is the work of all people. It’s about empowerment and providing the tools and resources individuals and teams require to carry out this work in a supportive way. As our Truth and Reconciliation strategy continues to evolve, we are focused on training and education, curriculum development, and College community engagement.
We are addressing Call #7 – to eliminate the education and employment gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians – by working with government and Indigenous educators to develop programs that are funded, supportive, and create direct pathways to employment or further education, such as Materials Handling 4.0 and Compass Skills. We’ve also worked with Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin Inc. to create the Diagnostic Support Worker Applied Certificate Program, which delivers targeted education to learners in northern communities and work in nursing stations in remote communities. To ensure Indigenous Manitobans don’t face barriers to entry to the College, we are in the process of developing an Indigenous student and staff recruitment and retention strategy. We are also expanding our Pathway programs, creating bridges and supports for Indigenous learners throughout their journey to, through and beyond RRC Polytech.
We are addressing Call #14 i and iv – to preserve, revitalize and strengthen Indigenous languages – through our spaces. Manitou a bi Bii daziigae is an expansion to the Exchange District Campus, and the College’s first building to receive an Indigenous name, in consultation with Elders-in-Residence at RRC Polytech. Through its name, Manitou a bi Bii daziigae acknowledges the land where it is situated. The space creates opportunities for staff, students and community to participate in ceremony and celebrate Indigenous knowledge, culture, and achievement.
We are addressing Call #57 – to offer training for public sector staff – through the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation e-modular training, which is required for all staff and will soon be available for students. The Blanket Exercise, a powerful and transformative learning experience, is also returning as our safety protocols allow us to offer in-person workshops once again.
The creation of Jamie Wilson’s role and the work he will lead on strengthening relationships with the wider business community and Indigenous communities will address Call #92, which focuses on business and reconciliation. We have already made headway in this commitment through our partnership with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce to offer them one free month of the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation training, and a mentorship networking forum for Indigenous students and alumni.
The Calls to Action are expansive and apply to all areas of society, including industries our graduates will go on to contribute to and lead. We encourage all staff to read through the Calls to Action and consider how they can be integrated into their work and program areas. The Applied Commerce and Marketing Education (ACME) department is already leading by example on this front, having recently increased their Indigenous content from zero to 13 per cent.
What training will be provided with staff to support EDI and Truth and Reconciliation? How will staff be trained to support students in this journey?
We will continue providing the training we currently offer, such as the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation and sessions and workshops like the Blanket Exercise and Conversations with Authors, a series offered in partnership with Truth and Reconciliation and Library Services. Visit the Truth and Reconciliation webpage on Staff Forum for more information.
In the near future we’ll release 4 Seasons training for students, along with resources and guides for instructors.
What does the term “Indigenization” mean to Jamie and Fred and what is the “dream state” e.g., a fully Indigenized RRC Polytech look like to them?
Many companies and organizations have adopted Truth and Reconciliation or duty to consult because they have to. Many aren’t doing anything at all. And then there are those who are working hard to understand the social and economic opportunities inherent in Indigenization.
I’ll be honest: I struggle with the word Indigenization. To truly Indigenize something, we’re talking about language, land and ceremony. It’s a journey that never ends. There will be no dream or end state where we get to say, “We finally did it! We’re Indigenized today.” Instead, we keep moving forward and seeking ways to improve.
The process of Indigenizing involves understanding the relationship between Indigenous people in Canada. It involves adapting our culture so that all people feel welcome on our campuses. I keep saying it’s a journey and it’s hard work, but it has to happen. It has to happen in Canada, and it has to happen in Manitoba. We’re perfectly positioned to lead the way. This is not just about Indigenous people. This is about all Manitobans, all Canadians, working towards a better understanding of who we are.
When we talk about our “dream state” or end goal, I think about one thing: our graduates. Why are we changing our curriculum? Obviously, we want people to leave here with skills that equip them to succeed in whatever area they’ve been trained in. But ultimately, we want them to leave with cultural competencies that help us grow as a province. The reason we’re introducing Indigenous knowledge and teachings into our programs and curriculum is to provide those cultural competencies.
For example, we are one of the largest schools for healthcare workers inside the province, and we know that Indigenous people are overrepresented as clients of our healthcare system. We want our healthcare program graduates to enter the workforce with an understanding of why that disparity exists, what situations and issues they will face on the job, and how they can work with sensitivity and understanding to make a difference. That’s the dream state we’re aiming for.
Indigenous Strategy, Research and Business Development portfolio
The creation of the Indigenous Strategy and Business Development portfolio was guided by the commitments within our strategic plan. Your role and your guidance are important as we work towards delivering on our priorities. Can you share about your experience so far in your new role and what’s ahead?
I want to start by saying how supportive the RRC Polytech community has been from the moment I began. The College’s commitment to bettering our province is inspiring. Over the past two months I’ve noticed how different our culture is from the workplace cultures you usually encounter in the public service and the private sector, even though we share characteristics with both. I’ve been especially blown away by the College’s overall commitment to Indigenous issues, whether it’s in the curriculum, or in our hiring and retention policies.
I’m still discovering new things about RRC Polytech every day. On the business development side of things, I’m currently in super-rapid discovery mode as I learn what’s going on across our campuses, and I’m looking forward to working in that sweet spot between Indigenous strategy and business development. I’ll get into more of what I mean by that later in this discussion.
The Indigenous Strategy and Business Development portfolio is a re-imagined area that will guide transformation for truth and reconciliation and strengthen the College’s relationship between Indigenous communities and the business sector. Can you speak to the interconnections between the areas it encompasses?
I’ve always viewed education as the key to Indigenous growth. Through my work at the Treaty Commission of Manitoba, I became more and more aware that there’s a role for entrepreneurship and business development in the growth of Indigenous communities.
I delved into that in my work with the province and then in the private sector. From that I developed an understanding that Manitoba is uniquely positioned. Our province is at the epicentre of the relationship between the Indigenous community and all other Canadians. That reality holds so much potential.
If we go back to Treaty One, that relationship is mirrored in the dialogue between the Métis community and Canada, where you had two peoples coming together, creating an enduring relationship of mutual obligation. That mutual obligation was about the future, and in the treaty they codified that mutual obligation in what Elders would call the right to livelihood.
I’m from Treaty Five territory. Back in 1875 when that treaty was signed, our livelihood was hunting, chopping wood, fishing, farming. But what does livelihood mean in 2022? My portfolio attempts to address that by folding Indigenous strategy and business development together.
Each aspect has its own role and place, but there’s a sweet spot where both overlap – and that overlap is what sets this College apart. It’s where we have the potential to differentiate our province globally, too, by bringing together two different communities with very different histories to create a collaborative future of economic prosperity for both.
When the portfolio was originally conceived, we weren’t envisioning it as two areas delivered separately under one umbrella. The point was to harmonize both.
What are some ways you see Regional campuses involved in Indigenous Strategy and Business Development? How can all campuses be involved?
I think recruitment of Indigenous Canadians is super important. I think the more young Indigenous people we can get onto our campuses, the better. The bigger our footprint, the easier it is to meet not only the needs of our local communities and industries, but to gain a much broader perspective on how we can have an even wider impact.
We know that for Indigenous students, leaving home is often a barrier to accessing education. Delivering our programs on our rural campuses, and connecting with the communities in and around those campuses, are essential to keeping students close to home and removing that barrier.
We must also ensure the programming we offer can be customized for a particular region. For example, our Portage la Prairie campus is building strong linkages with Long Plain First Nation and developing programming to meet the specific needs of that community.
Would you agree that Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) can play an important role in advancing this new portfolio and strategy? A comprehensive RPL strategy built into our curriculum development plans as we Indigenize, can allow for alternative admissions pathways and recognizing many different ways of knowing and doing for credit within programs. RPL can also increase graduation rates.
Recognition of Prior Learning is a critical component of what we offer as a polytechnic. It sets us apart and creates opportunities to attract more students from diverse backgrounds. Students come to RRC Polytech by many different pathways and with a wide variety of experience. We recognize experience you may have gained in non-traditional ways as well. RPL plays – and will continue play – a significant role as we realize our Strategic Plan and advance the Indigenous Strategy and Business Development portfolio.
How is RRC Polytech building lasting, meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities outside of students coming to the College? For example, are there community leaders backing the College’s strategy?
I think the key is engagement: getting out there, making ourselves accessible and being responsive, figuring out what problems we can solve for the Indigenous community and taking an active role in the solution. My personal metric for success in these relationships is when they’ve reached a stage where you can text each other questions and openly discuss challenges and mistakes with each other.
How will we measure success of new initiatives in the new Indigenous Strategy and Business Development portfolio?
Data and assessment are vital components of every strategic plan. The ability to measure and understand the impact your work is having in achieving your goals is what makes the plan strategic. There’s an axiom that strategic planners follow: You value what you measure; you measure what you value. Some members of the Indigenous community have said we shouldn’t measure particular Indigenous aspects of our Strategic Plan because they are cultural or spiritual. But we must measure aspects of our plan that are important to our growth as an institution. We are working on ways to measure the depth of our relationship with our partners right now, so that we can have a better understanding of where we need to improve and where we are succeeding.
Can Jamie or Fred comment on cultural industries in Manitoba in general, and how RRC Polytech might be able to contribute to this particular sector in the province in the future from an Indigenous perspective?
RRC Polytech can contribute in many ways. We have begun assisting organizations – for example, Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Manitoba Theatre Centre – in their journey towards Truth and Reconciliation, acting as an external partner. As these organizations gain a better understanding of Indigenous issues it will undoubtedly have an impact on their delivery. In addition, our students throughout different program areas whether it’s culinary arts, Indigenous entrepreneurship, IT and beyond will be leaving the College with the skills to either work in these industries or start their own business within cultural industries.
How does our International Education activity complement Indigenous & Business Development strategy? Are there new synergies we can explore?
International students may want to come here, or we go abroad to deliver some of the Corporate Solutions customized training products. For instance, the School of Transportation and Heavy Trades have received international requests for our Electric Vehicle Technology course. Another example is our work with Just Eat Takeaway.com Global Logistics (SkipTheDishes). A significant portion of their workforce is international students. RRC Polytech’s Corporate Solutions provide them with in-house micro-credentials and upskilling, which ultimately helps international students succeed in Manitoba.
Does Jamie’s work include business development in general or just Indigenous business development?
Jamie has started to map out how this new portfolio will bring an Indigenous lens to business development, a substantial aspect of RRC Polytech’s work. The new portfolio will include existing areas of the College – Truth and Reconciliation, Community Engagement, and Corporate Solutions – to work on building partnerships between the College, the Indigenous community, and the business community.
Indigenous businesses have a strong desire to expand. Non-Indigenous businesses have a strong desire to Indigenize and receive recognition for this accomplishment. As we move forward, we know that all businesses require an Indigenous lens – whether they are looking at Indigenous people as a target customer base (one of the largest and fastest growing customer bases in Manitoba), or seeking talented, diverse employees, or seeking partners for development and resources. Committing to the principals of Truth and Reconciliation and responding to the Calls to Action isn’t just good for business. When you make things better for Indigenous peoples, it automatically makes things better for everyone. There are huge opportunities for RRC Polytech to step in and help our industry and community partners advance in their efforts.
How do you feel your experience will help with development of this new area for the College?
I’m lucky to have worked in a number of vastly different jobs in my career – from education to military service, to public service and industry. By looking at areas where there is overlap, we can bring together sectors that are sometimes not fully aligned. I believe RRC Polytech is perfectly positioned to do this work. There are a growing number of progressive leaders from both Indigenous and business communities that are realizing the opportunities that can be created in Manitoba by working together, whether it’s property development, construction, manufacturing or the service sector, we are in a perfect position to facilitate those relationships.
Advancing Indigenous Education
We are building practicum partnerships across all sectors. We have recruited Indigenous-led organizations, but we can do more. How can we connect and network more to build practicum experiences that align with the values of our Indigenous students?
Engage early and engage often. This will be easier as COVID restrictions open up. But get out there and build those relationships, whether it’s through a phone call, an email, a video conference, or a site visit.
Remember that being in a partner’s space changes the power balance. You’re there as a learner. That can be uncomfortable, but embracing the learner role is an important part of being a good partner.
The practicum component is one of those areas where Indigenous strategy and business development really merge together. Industry leaders and partners want our advice on how to recruit more Indigenous employees and our help throughout that process. Our experience and expertise in this area will have a huge influence on our relationships with our partners and their relationship with their employees. Jamie’s team is now thinking about what kind of training and support we can offer businesses to design more effective workplaces and workplace cultures for Indigenous employees.
Let me use the manufacturing sector as an example of how that can play out. Manufacturing is facing a huge workforce shortage right now. Companies are working together to figure out how to recruit talent. They see this pool of Indigenous talent as a real opportunity. Many companies are having conversations about how to recruit and retain more Indigenous workers.
For instance, Vale in Thompson had a 75 per cent attrition rate for new employees after five years. They hired most of their employees from outside northern Manitoba, and they wanted to recruit more Indigenous workers from their part of the province. The leadership at Vale went into the process thinking, “We have to change Indigenous people to fit into our culture.” They soon discovered that wasn’t the answer, and they had the insight to turn the matter around: “How can we make our culture more supportive for this workforce?” Once Vale transformed their culture, they began recruiting far more Indigenous people. Their retention rate rose to 75 per cent over five years. Their safety record improved dramatically. They saved money. The result was incredible across the board.
Some of the work we’re doing internally as a College is replicating that journey. Meanwhile, whole industries right now are also on the same journey, and we can play a pivotal role in guiding them.
How do you envision Indigenization in our academic programming taking place?
I want to start this answer by giving kudos to Carla Kematch and the work she’s doing as Director of Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement.
I think there’s a significant opportunity for us to help advance our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation by Indigenizing our curriculum. That means working hard and creatively to figure out how we can bring Indigenous perspectives, content, and delivery methods into every program we offer.
We have a great example in some of our business programs, which have already taken a leadership role in this process. It’s not easy. I’m told that in their initial discussions, there were conversations around math, for instance. “Math is math. We can’t Indigenize that.” But they found a way, and their solutions have had a measurable impact on student performance outcomes, retention, employment, and more.
If we can take the general outlines of their example and adapt it College-wide, through the program renewal cycle and other processes, Indigenizing our curriculum becomes achievable.
At a recent instructor advisory group, I witnessed a strong willingness among instructors and leaders to integrate more Indigenous content into our curriculum. One of the barriers we face is not knowing how. Each program and each course is different. I want to underscore that there is no harm in asking for help. We’re all learning; what matters is that you come to this process with a true willingness to try, and a commitment to working through the challenges you encounter along the way.
I hear people expressing vulnerability about not knowing the right answer. We’re educators; not knowing the answer makes us uncomfortable. Discomfort is part of the process. It can be worked through. Meanwhile, help and support are available. Our Elders are available to provide guidance, as well as the Knowledge Keepers’ Council, and Carla Kematch, Director of Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement.
I want to add to Fred’s comments about discomfort. We want people to feel comfortable enough to talk about issues. You have to be willing, as well, to make mistakes. Teaching and education are processes that involve constant growth. It’s okay that you’re learning about the world, about the country, about your area of expertise, and growing through that. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way. But we can’t let the fear of making mistakes stop us from doing the work when it comes to Indigenizing RRC Polytech.
I understand that RRC Polytech is carrying out a lot of initiatives at the post-secondary level to be more inclusive for indigenous people. But what about at the lower levels – high school, elementary and even kindergarten? Is the College also looking at what it can do for indigenous youth at these levels for them to have a vision and a hope of higher-level education?
I would encourage anyone working in this area to send me and/or Carla Kematch an email. Fill us in on what you know is happening so we can strategize ways to reach students earlier.
For Indigenous students in Manitoba, I know the biggest challenges they face begin around Grade 9, so if educators are not reaching students then, we’re missing opportunities and facing a very limited pool of students ready to graduate from high school. Then we’re competing for those students against different institutions across the province.
I think right now we have around 1,700 students at RRC Polytech, second in our province to the University of Manitoba. Fred and I are both competitive. We want to be number one when it comes to recruiting Indigenous students. How do we get there? I think getting middle years and high school students onto campus is a brilliant way to start. We’ve been discussing programs that could bring students here over the summer, for instance. Once they’re here, we can make them aware of the career paths available to them, make them more comfortable being on our campuses and feeling like these are places they want to end up.
I think that’s key: helping Indigenous students feel that they belong here, that this is a place they can connect with. If you look at our newest building, Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, it has elements of Indigenous culture and ceremony built into its design. Everything from artwork to design principles, including the Round Room where people can meet in – all those aspects send a signal that you belong. It’s important for us to continue demonstrating that this is a place where students can connect with each other and with their culture.
As Jamie said, it’s a reality that many Indigenous youth do not finish high school or meet the Grade 12 requirements for some of our programs. I mentioned Pathway programs before. Those programs are critically important for preparing people to enter our diploma and degree programs. We need to look at expanding our Pathways, and finding ways to connect with mature learners as well. We’ve already done some of that through our First Nations and Inuit Health program delivery to rural and remote areas.
The K-12 sector has emphasized the need to increase the number of Indigenous teachers within the K-12 sector and thus our Bachelor of Educator programs across Manitoba. We know that having Indigenous teachers in the K-12 schools have a positive influence on student success. Jamie, any suggestions on how RRC Polytech (Teacher Education department) might work with the K-12 sector to recruit more Indigenous students into our Bachelor of Education programs? what do you see as the disconnect at this point?
We know we need to be competitive and differentiate ourselves from other post-secondary institutions who also offer education programs, and the Senior Leadership Team is currently exploring ways we can embrace that challenge.
As an example, I’m inspired by a program started by the Winnipeg School Division a few years ago where they invite parents of students to become education assistants and then support them as they pursue a Bachelor of Education degree. It offers a pathway to a long-term career while providing a job in the short-term. That’s one of best programs we’ve seen for increasing Indigenous teachers and might serve as an example to guide us in our program development.
Can RRC Polytech look at a plan for an Indigenous Recruitment Strategy to have more resources, more staff, and a budget?
Advancing Indigenous education is an important priority of our Strategic Plan and our newly developed Academic Plan. Specifically, through the process of developing the Academic Plan, we have recognized the need to assess enrolment and success of Indigenous learners, and we anticipate the need to develop a plan to address recruitment and retention of this growing demographic.
Certainly, our capacity to do this work will be something that is addressed during this plan development. This includes how we staff and budget appropriately to increase desired outcomes.
We are committed to ensuring all learners see RRC Polytech as a place they belong, a place they can thrive, and a place that will prepare them for the workforce.
I personally believe that one of the biggest barriers to recruiting Indigenous students is the lack of culturally safe (e.g., secure, sense of community, Elder/advisor support, etc.) on-campus student housing. Do we have any plans on this front?
Through Indigenous Student Supports and Community Relations, we currently offer incredible resources for Indigenous learners including Student Support Centres, Elders in Residence, advising and coaching, counselling, financial aid, and employment services. At the present time, we currently have student housing at the Exchange District Campus. This campus is also home to an Indigenous Student Support Centre and our new building Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, which houses spaces for students and community to take part in traditional ceremonies and celebrations.
Aligning with RRC Polytech’s focus on Truth and Reconciliation and EDI – What are your thoughts or plans to increase the numbers of Indigenous students attending RRC Polytech?
I like the idea that has been put forward to get more youth on campus, so they can gain a familiarity with our programs and our facilities. We need to keep iterating and improving on how we recruit, retain and graduate our students.
How are we ensuring Indigenous students continue to succeed after they leave the College? Is there a plan for working with businesses on supports? Wrap-around (before, during, after College) supports are critical for empowerment to keep going.
RRC Polytech offers wrap-around supports and a work-integrated learning hub, along with other resources for Indigenous students after they graduate, such as employer mentors, internships and case management for students and employers. We will continue to evolve these resources to further support students as they move into the workforce.
Getting to know Jamie Wilson
Who has had the greatest impact in your career life and helped you to be where you are today?
That’s a tough question because several experiences in my life have really shifted my trajectory. My answer, though, would be my parents. They are both educators, retired profs. When my siblings and I were very young, our parents both had good jobs up north – but then they quit their jobs to move us down to Southern California to start their PhDs. As little kids, we just thought that was normal, like, who doesn’t have parents that quit their jobs to go back to school? I see now how their commitment to lifelong learning have shaped my brother and sister, who are also academics, and me and my kids.
As someone who’s new to the College you have a fresh perspective and may notice things that those who have been here for a number of years may not see. What has surprised you the most about your first few months at RRC Polytech?
I would say a few things. Firstly, that culturally the environment here is a nice mix between public service and industry. It doesn’t feel as bureaucratic as the public service can sometimes, yet everyone at RRC Polytechnic is working towards bettering Manitoba and that comes through when you interact with people.
I think there is an opportunity for us to become more client focused. Two years of online meetings may have created some distance and it’s important that we rebuild relationships – in person. As an institution which supports experiential learning I think that is critical.
I’ve also learned we do a lot of things really well. In some of my previous roles, I’ve never had an opportunity to work on larger strategic projects like I have here, and it’s been a fantastic experience throwing ideas onto a whiteboard rather than working in crisis mode.
Lastly, “No Meetings Wednesdays” surprised me when I saw it in my calendar. Now I know why they’ve scheduled that time off!
EDI in Recruitment and Retention
Can you speak to the efforts underway to increase representation and change hiring practices to ensure that the faculty is diverse and representative of the learners who are enrolled in our programs? Specifically, attracting diverse candidates to apply for employment opportunities at RRC Polytech.
I mentioned earlier that this is one of the areas where we’re making progress under the Strategic Plan. We are designing a recruitment and retention plan specifically for Indigenous employees, and I’ve asked AMIK, a local company, to work with us on that plan. Our Chief Human Resource Officer, Melanie Gudmundson, has been driving some of that work forward as well. Our work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the conversations we’ve been having in those areas have pushed us forward on that commitment.
It’s important to make sure the diversity of our employees reflects the diversity of our general population. We’re tracking that now and setting targets to make sure we achieve the outcomes we’re aiming for. As an institution and as a senior leadership team, we’re engaged in an ongoing discussion centred on how to make a measurable difference. How do we increase the number of BIPOC employees here at the College, for example? How do we increase the number of Indigenous students and Indigenous instructors? Finding the answers isn’t easy. It takes a lot of concerted effort – not only to develop plans, but put those plans in action, and then hold ourselves accountable to achieving our goals.
We want to make a difference, and we’ve heard during the Strategic Planning process that each of you wants to make a difference as well. We’ve got to push boundaries. I’m encouraged and excited every day to hear about the innovative approaches we’re taking, such as our Pathway programs, which have been extremely successful. We’re looking at expanding those programs and developing new ones. Another thing that encourages me is the willingness of our community and business partners to work with us on these initiatives.
With a view to the intersectional nature of discussions around EDI, how can we connect some of the work we’re doing around Indigenization to work around increasing supports for and recruitment of disabled and neurodivergent staff, faculty, and students?
The College is committed to fostering inclusion and providing accessible work and learning environments for all staff, faculty and students. As we work with Indigenous leaders and partners to identify and resolve recruitment and selection barriers, this work also removes and resolves barriers for all equity deserving groups.
The work the College is undertaking in these areas is reflected in our EDI Strategy and accompanying Corporate/Departmental Action Plans, Healthy Minds/Healthy College Strategy, and Accessibility Plan; and is further supported by our Student Accessibility Services and Supportive Employment Program.
Some of the resources and supports that have been established through these strategies, plans and programs include:
- For job seekers: Information on Hiring Process and Interview Accommodation supports
- For students: Information on Getting Ready for College and Student Accessibility Services
- For employees: Information on Resources for all Staff and Healthy Minds/Healthy College Initiatives
To support a culture that fosters engagement and inclusion, the College provides opportunities to enhance and promote knowledge through training. For staff and faculty, our Accessibility Training includes the College’s mandatory Customer Service Standard training required under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act.
The College has partnerships with CCDI (staff only a this time) and LinkedIn Learning to provide a variety of self-directed learning options to foster inclusive and accessible work and learning environments.
Re-entry to Campus and the Fall 2022 Term
What is the immunization protocol for the Fall Re-entry to the College?
As of March 1, staff and students are not required to provide proof of vaccination to attend RRC Polytech campuses.
The College is proud to acknowledge that more than 90% of staff and students are fully vaccinated. Our high vaccination rate is a primary reason we remain confident that our campuses are safe places to learn and work. We will continue to host vaccine clinics for first, second, and booster doses.
For more information about on-campus health and safety protocol for the Fall 2022 Term, visit rrc.ca/coronavirus
What is being done by the College to keep salaries in line with inflation?
Compensation is governed by the Collective Agreement. The College and the MGEU are currently negotiating the renewal of the Collective Agreement.