Syncrude achieves Aboriginal employment milestone
Jul 06, 2017
Even before she started working at Syncrude, Lori Cyprien appreciated the organization’s commitment to Aboriginal employment.
“I received scholarships from Syncrude as a student, which made things a lot easier for me in pursuing my education,” says Lori, who holds a master’s degree from Royal Roads University after completing her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University and a diploma from NAIT. “But even more than those scholarships, Syncrude helped me grow from a summer student in 2002 to a front-line leader and environmental scientist.”
The member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is one of 475 self-declared Aboriginal employees working at Syncrude.
Ten per cent of the organization’s permanent workforce is now Aboriginal, which Greg Fuhr, Syncrude’s Vice President, Production – Mining & Extraction, sees as an important milestone.
“One of Syncrude’s founding principles is local Aboriginal people should share in the opportunities created by oil sands development,” Greg says. “Seeing the growth of Aboriginal representation in our workforce shows we’re on the right track when it comes to meeting our commitment to employing First Nations, Métis and other Aboriginal people.”
Aboriginal employees have represented between 8.1 and 9.4 per cent of Syncrude’s total permanent workforce since 2003. The numbers have steadily risen since 2014 thanks to a lower attrition rate among Aboriginal employees. In 2017, 16.4 per cent of Syncrude’s new hires are Aboriginal.
“We are hiring them because they are excellent candidates. That’s borne out by the low attrition rate among Aboriginal employees,” says Greg. “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s been a smart thing to do and has helped us succeed.”
Ken Bell, a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and Syncrude’s production manager for Tailings and Lease Development, agrees. Ken also oversees Syncrude’s BET team, which focuses on keeping birds and wildlife away from Syncrude’s operation. He sees as an example of how both the company can benefit from Aboriginal employees.
“This is a seasonal rotational program that allows for meaningful, sustainable employment that allows people to practice traditional lifestyles, such as trapping, in the winter,” says Ken, a member of Syncrude’s Aboriginal Steering Committee. “We benefit from having that knowledge.”
Syncrude, in turn, insures that knowledge is shared with its workforce. This includes mandatory awareness training for all its leadership, of whom 7.3 per cent are self-declared Aboriginal.
“People take pride in their past and their traditions. Having leadership aware of the culture of different First Nations and aboriginal groups is very important,” says Lori. “It makes employees life a little easier, knowing their leader has that background and an understanding of our culture.”
Lori is also a member of Syncrude’s Aboriginal Employee Network, which brings together Aboriginal employees from different disciplines across the operations. Among other tasks, Lori and other employees in the network serve as ambassadors for Syncrude at different community events, such as Treaty Days. The group also assists with hosting an Aboriginal Day celebration on site.
“An event like this is not held on every industrial site. I am proud to be a part of a company that highlights the local culture to such a diverse group of employees”