Indigenizing the future of STEM: Stantec’s Alaska Native Program
September 21, 2021
September 21, 2021
Stantec Native Program strives to effect change within the native population and create a path to STEM careers
Indigenizing the future of STEM requires a holistic approach to building stronger connections for indigenous communities. To help increase the representation of Alaska Native and American Indian science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals in business, Stantec has developed a fully integrated, community-driven Alaska Native Program. The program centers around the four pillars that integrate Stantec’s core values and focuses on partnerships with indigenous programs that strive to effect change within the Native population and create a path to STEM careers.
As part of Stantec’s Alaska Native Program, we were proud to again help deliver a virtual college and career-exploration session with second graders at Native schools across Alaska. Stantec volunteers read I Know I Can, a book that talks about a group of animal friends trying to determine what they want to be when they grow up. Our volunteers also helped students draw their career dreams on postcards. Completed career-dream postcards are collected and mailed back to students two years later to remind them to continue to explore their strengths and interests as they work toward reaching their future goals.
The I Know I Can story is designed to spark youngsters to begin career exploration and helps draw a connection from elementary school education to higher education and career planning. It also sends a message that college education is possible and encourages young children and their families (many who come from disadvantaged backgrounds) to start thinking about college early. I Know I Can is a partnership between the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, Alaska 529, numerous school districts, and volunteer partners across Alaska.
“Engaging with future Alaska Native leaders and seeing a vision of their future is inspiring,” says Adam Leggett, Stantec’s Alaska Native Program Manager and a volunteer with the I Know I Can program.
Additionally, for the second consecutive year, Stantec has been recognized by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) as one of the Top 50 STEM Workplaces for Indigenous STEM Professionals. AISES released its listing in the Spring 2021 issue of Winds of Change, the organization’s national magazine, which focuses on advancement for Indigenous Peoples of North America and the Pacific Islands in STEM studies and careers.
Firms selected for the AISES Top 50 list are required to meet a list of criteria, including: diversity recruitment efforts, recruiting for jobs in the STEM fields, actively recruiting within Indigenous audiences, and sustained support of the AISES mission.
We’re always looking for avenues and opportunities to build stronger connections with communities and deeper partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and businesses.
In Alaska, Stantec successfully works with Indigenous groups through formal business partnerships focused on Alaska Native employment efforts on major projects, and through connections to Indigenous Peoples in our project delivery. In addition, we are working toward earning the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) certification from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. PAR provides a framework for organizations to develop an Indigenous Relations approach that is effective, sustainable, and successful.
“We’re always looking for avenues and opportunities to build stronger connections with communities and deeper partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and businesses,” Leggett says. “We want to be a place where everyone feels free to be their true selves—and considering the histories, cultures, and values of Indigenous communities is vital to that mission.”