June 8, 2015

The First Nations Longhouse at the University of British Columbia was a fitting place for a very special graduation ceremony on May 29, 2015. The ceremony recognized 20 graduates from Ch’nook, a unique initiative founded by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business to address the needs of sustainable economic development in Indigenous communities.

The graduates were from two Ch’nook programs: the Aboriginal Management Certificate Program (AMP) and the Ch’nook Scholars Program. AMP is an intensive half-year program that teaches student key business concepts using a hands-on approach. Through a combination of classroom and distance learning, the program covers marketing, business law, accounting, finance governance, supply chain, human resources, and project management. Ch’nook Scholars are full-time university students in Ch’nook’s Indigenous Business Network. Scholars demonstrate personal and professional achievements and have made contributions to their university or community. (Ch’nook runs other programs as well, see www.chnook.org.)

Nexen has supported Ch’nook for the past six years—a total of $300,000 used to fund Aboriginal students, grow the Indigenous Business Network, and expand activities, recruitment efforts, and partnerships in northeastern British Columbia.

“The financial support that Nexen provides is critical in increasing economic development at the grassroots level,” says Danielle Levine, Associate Director, Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education Initiative. “With Nexen’s support, Ch’nook is able to provide Aboriginal youth with awareness of career opportunities in business studies, young Aboriginal adults with scholarships to attend business school and the opportunity to create invaluable networks that will last a lifetime, and Aboriginal leaders with the skills they need to develop strong local economies. Business skills, management training and entrepreneurship are critical to building robust economies for all Canadians. Nexen is leading the way with this support.”

Connie Landry, Nexen’s Program and Planning Advisor, Aboriginal Relations, attended the graduation ceremony. She notes that Ch’nook’s business focus is unique and has a significant impact on First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in Canada. “Business education is vital in order for Aboriginal people to capitalize on development opportunities, whether through their own businesses or by working in industry. Business skills are also useful in governance and one of the Ch’nook graduates is currently on a band council.

“There’s a misconception that Aboriginal people are against development. In fact, Aboriginal people are for responsible development. They want to come to the table and participate. The more business skills they have, the better. It opens doors.”