Balancing Strategies: Self-Directed Life and Career Exploration for Indigenous Students

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Balancing Strategies: Self-Directed Life and Career Exploration for Indigenous Students

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Balancing Strategies is an interactive, flexible, and holistic program that utilizes culturally-relevant curriculum to support and guide the career success of Indigenous students at UVic. While the number of Indigenous students at UVic is steadily increasing, many local Indigenous communities are voicing concern that their graduates are facing significant barriers accessing employment despite their level of education. This is largely because many of the conventional career development options geared towards post-secondary students rely on models and approaches that defy the configurations of Indigenous students' lives. Mainstream career/life exploration options often rely on a Euro-Western worldview that doesn't take into account the full spectrum of responsibilities in Indigenous students lives. Many of the counseling techniques used by mainstream counselors who work with Indigenous students are culturally encapsulated. Additionally, the curriculums and pedagogical approaches used in conventional career development models are in many ways culturally-irrelevant and may be inconsistent with the realities of Indigenous students' needs and lived experiences. This is largely because, as scholars such as Axelson (1993) have observed, most career development models are based on generalizations of "middle-class and white male populations" (p. 41).

In the aim of providing comprehensive and culturally-relevant support for Indigenous students throughout their academic journeys, Balancing Strategies will offer career/life exploration and transition options in a flexible, self-directed, and cyclical format. Specifically, the program will provide a series of creative career exploration options that provide insight into students' strengths, aspirations and abilities to incorporate into their career goals. The intent is to facilitate the strengthening of students' self-awareness and confidence to identify personal talents that are transferable to future life or employment goals. It is our hope that activities which encourage students to tell their story and relate life experiences to one another will facilitate this process. Art making, cultural activities and traditional teachings around meaning and visioning self and career journeys will also be incorporated into the program curriculum. Additionally, the program will connect students with relevant resources to support their career goals and objectives (resume and cover letter writing help, professional development workshops, Indigenous internship programs, career & coop services).

Balancing Strategies will be implemented following a creative, dynamic approach which meet students where they are engaged in life. It will be a holistic and interactive program that encourages students to involve their families and cultural communities in setting life and career goals.

Rather than a linear action plan, the cyclical format emphasizes the continuing nature of life's journey. Students can engage in the program well before they leave post-secondary. They don't need to have specific objectives or timelines in mind. As students share their interests and passions with Elders and one another, they will learn new things which will help clarify goals and vision, which in turn lets them decide on new actions. The career journey is a walk taken one step at a time, each new step will help focus the next.

About You
About You
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Gina Starblanket

About You, Your Group, or Your Organization

UVic Office of Indigenous Affairs

Please confirm that this project could benefit First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples


Twitter URL
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What categories best describe who your group or organization serves (check all that apply)

First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

What best describes your group or organization

University, Technical Institute or College.

How long have you, your group, or your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Define your idea / project in 1-2 short sentences

A series of culturally-relevant interactive activities and talking circles aimed at supporting and encouraging Indigenous students' life and career transitions.

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a project that is just getting started)

Social Impact
Please tell us about the social impact of your idea or proect

Indigenous populations in British Columbia are younger and growing more rapidly than the general population, both on and off reserve. While Indigenous post-secondary completion rates are steadily increasing, there continues to be disproportionately higher unemployment rates amongst Indigenous populations than non-Indigenous populations. As the young Indigenous population becomes an increasingly large demographic of British Columbia, there is an urgent and compelling need to support Indigenous students' transitions out of post-secondary onto career paths as the educational failures that take place today will have serious impacts on tomorrow's labour force as well as the future livelihood of local Indigenous communities and cultures.

Your Future Goal(s): Tell us what you hope to achieve with your idea or project in the next year

To cultivate a welcoming, supportive and encouraging environment for Indigenous students interested in life and career planning

In 5 years, what will be different as a result of your idea/project?

Increased number of Indigenous students feeling supported in their transitions out of post-secondary; increased number of Indigenous graduates from UVic accessing employment opportunities. At a broader level, the impacts of this program will mitigate some of the socio-economic factors affecting Indigenous learners in the region, and will contribute to a reduction in the unemployment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Over the coming years, the proportion of Indigenous people in the young adult population is projected to grow significantly. There is thus enormous potential at this point in time for increasing Indigenous people's participation in the labour market, which in turn will contribute to the overall capacities and wellness of Indigenous communities.

Tell us about the people/ partnerships that are already involved and why they are important to your idea or project.

The program will be open to adaptation based on each new intake but will generally involve circles for students to explore their strengths, gifts, and values while developing realistic personal, career and educational goals and sharing about their plans for themselves, their families and their communities (ie: what is meaningful to them and how/if they are considering giving back to community). Some possibilities involve inviting Elders into the circles and organizing meetings with Elders, career counsellors, and individuals with experience in relevant fields to help students explore their gifts and interests. UVic's Indigenous Counsellor, Office of Indigenous Affairs and Elders-in-Residence have already committed to this project and will be instrumental in its implementation and success.

If there are other people/partners that you will reach out to tell us who they are and why they will be important to your idea or project.

Elders-in-Residence, relevant career representatives such as staff from UVic's Career and Coop services and Graduate Studies, key industry players and representatives from local Indigenous Internship/Placement programs will be invited to participate in the program. Wherever possible, students wll be encouraged to involve friends, family, and members of their cultural communities in activities and in exploring/mapping life goals.

Describe the kinds of support you receive (other than money) or will need to support your idea or project (e.g.: donated, space, equipment and volunteers)

Spaces and office/administrative equipment can be accessed at UVic for this initiative at no cost. In-kind donations of volunteer hours from relevant Office of Indigenous Affairs and UVic staff will support the program.

Do you currently have funding for your idea or project?

No (skip next two questions)