by Bobbie Boland

    Carpe Diem Seize the “Diversity” Day

    Without question, the development of offshore oil in Newfoundland is the catalyst for better economic times, and the current Hebron development and benefits agreement with the province is distinctive in its own right. The commitment to develop a Gender Equity Program and Diversity Program and Business Access Strategies for both groups is opening doors for those who have not traditionally been part of the oil industry.

    The Gender Equity Program and Diversity program now in place for Newfoundland and Labrador are distinctive in the evolution of benefits agreements, and represent a benchmark which will have global reverberations. While not part of the oil industry and focused on disadvantaged groups, we already have diversity and gender equity solutions in place; take a look at how creative implementations of our programs are working: Stella Burry Community Services (SBCS) is a not-for-profit organization offering a suite of services and supports to those with mental health issues and those who need help in engaging in the life of the community. One of the programs is a social enterprise that aims to prepare people to work in the food service industry. When in St. John’s, you must try The Hungry Heart Cafe at Rawlins Cross, where you will find the food and service fabulous. This social enterprise is poised to become part of the supply chain, and will help companies meet gender and diversity obligations through food preparation and supported jobs positions, or companies can contract to purchase working-lunch meals from The Hungry Heart Cafe.

    Choice For Youth (CFY), a community-based organization provides housing and lifestyle development supports for homeless and at-risk youth. CFY has recently opened the doors of the Lilly Building, St. John’s first affordable housing facility for male and female youth. An innovative aspect of the Lilly Building is that the construction directly involved 10 youths associated with CFY through the Train for Trades program, which has since moved on to a new focus that involves training and employing another team of 10 young people to retrofit older housing units for energy efficiency. The young people are supported by a team of youth support workers who give them the necessary balance of flexibility, direction, support and independence that they need to succeed. Why couldn’t Train for Trades have a place in the supply chain as an innovative way to meet gender and diversity commitments while providing young people the opportunity to be engaged in meaningful and skill-building work?

    The Hub, self-described as a physically disabled service center, operates a print shop and catering service, providing jobs and training for individuals with disabilities. Island Furniture is a business offering a full spectrum of home and office furnishings, and they operate with a social agenda to help create jobs for individuals with developmental challenges. As part of a Diversity Business Access Strategy these businesses can easily become part of the supply chain. The Salvation Army’s New Hope Community Center has a Building Service Worker Program that trains individuals to be involved in the commercial-cleaning business. The expectation is that companies bidding on printing, food service, furniture supply and cleaning contracts will all be held to the gender and diversity commitments, and as such, joint ventures may be mutually beneficial. The possibilities are many; there is a huge room for expansion, and we are only limited by the lack of vision.

    The Hebron development is about more than oil, engineers, welders and drillers – it is about all the players considering how to leave the social and economic environment of this province richer … across the spectrum of people, jobs and communities.

    How might Carpe Diem look for all of the companies and sub- contractors involved in the Hebron development? The business case for diversity is clear, and industry finds itself on the cusp of opportunity. The experts are the people who know the assets and needs of the “gender equity and disadvantaged” environment, such as the advocacy groups, educational institutions, community-based not-for-profit service providers and local businesses. They get to know each other and identify the opportunities available when there is a vision of inclusion and engagement.

    While corporate donations and the charitable model have a place, capacity building and creating opportunities for people to be involved in the world of work and make a meaningful contribution to our society is a sweet experience.

    The big-picture guideposts are inclusion and engagement, sustainability and strategic investment, and diversity. When natural- resource development initiatives engage meaningfully with local people and communities, the people and communities develop resilience – an ability to shift, change and create a new balance. Carpe Diem – Time to seize the day!

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