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Aboriginal Relations

Aboriginal Summer Student Program majors in success

With no time to waste, Tyler Mitchell hasn’t had more than two weeks off in three years.

“My dad always told me to work hard when I’m young,” says Tyler, who recently spent four months in Syncrude’s Aboriginal Summer Student program. “He’s always been driven and a hard worker. I want to follow in his footsteps, especially when it comes to work ethic.”

Tyler is heading into his final year of the Business Administration diploma at Keyano College, and he jumped at the opportunity to broaden his knowledge of the local oil and gas industry. His father worked at Syncrude for 25 years and his sister has 13 years under her belt. It seemed like a logical next step.

“The summer let me test the waters within this industry and experiment in a few areas of business administration I hadn’t tried before,” says the Cowessess First Nation member.

Tyler plans on majoring in First Nations Governance at the University of Lethbridge in 2015. After, he intends to head back home to work with industry.

“I want to obtain a career that will allow me to combine my education in Business Administration and First Nations Governance. I want to help build and maintain relationships between local Aboriginal communities and industry,” says Tyler. “There are many opportunities in our region for the communities and industry to work together, and I think I can play a part in aligning them. Being born and raised here, I have a vested interest in the community, and I am very thankful that I will one day be able to come back and enjoy the opportunities that my home has to offer.”

The Aboriginal Summer Student Program is a subset of Syncrude’s General Summer Student and Co-op Programs, and made up 15 per cent of the students this year.

“We are very proud of these programs,” says Donelda Patterson, Syncrude’s manager of Human Resources Services. “We always try to fit students within their individual discipline when possible, but labourer positions are always a good first step too. We’re always happy to see local Aboriginal and Métis students apply.”

Tyler returned to school this fall with new experience in his tool belt and a few steps closer to reaching his goals.

Syncrude aims to respect Aboriginal cultures

Syncrude aims to respect Aboriginal cultures and traditions and is proud to be one of Canada’s largest employers of Aboriginal people. We continue to work toward providing greater opportunities for Aboriginal participation in our company through business development initiatives, and through education and skills development programs that open the door to rewarding careers.

Our Aboriginal relations commitment

Our Aboriginal relations commitment focuses on six key areas: corporate leadership, community development and capacity building, employment, business development, education and the environment. Among our performance highlights:

  • We are recognized with Gold Level accreditation by the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in their Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program. We are the only oil sands operator to achieve this level.
  • We are one of the largest private-sector employers of Aboriginal people in Canada. Of our total workforce, around 9% are of self-declared First Nations, Métis or Inuit descent.
  • Total cumulative spending with Aboriginal-owned businesses is over $2 billion.
  • Syncrude has permanently reclaimed over 3,400 hectares of land with another 1,000 available for revegetation. Aboriginal Elders and community members provide input on our reclamation through regular meetings and annual tours.
  • Syncrude and the Fort McKay First Nation co-manage a herd of wood bison grazing on land reclaimed from mining operations. The ranch has been in operation for 20 years.
  • Syncrude was the lead funding organization for a trades preparation and skills upgrading program at Keyano College. Called the Syncrude Aboriginal Trades Preparation Program (SATP), it was available in Fort McMurray, Janvier, Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan. The 29-week program included a four-week work placement at Syncrude, and has now been completed.
  • The Fort Chipewyan rotational employment program provides employees with free accommodation for the duration of their shift at Syncrude and free air transport to and from Fort Chipewyan. The program has been in place for over 30 years.
  • Each year, Syncrude produces a review of its Aboriginal relations commitments, called Pathways. The publication also profiles many local and national success stories from the Aboriginal community.