Building Bandwidth: Preparing indigenous youth for a digital future

The Royal Bank of Canada released a new study that looks at how to prepare indigenous youth for a digital future with a special focus on the decade ahead and some of the ways to help the next generation of Indigenous youth to thrive in the rapidly changing economy. The report hinges on analysing economic data and interviewing indigenous stakeholders about how to unlock and maximise their economic potential including findings from online surveys of 2,000 indigenous youth. The report found that while it is hard to start a business in Canada, young Indigenous entrepreneurs encounter an arduous battle due to a systemic digital gap which limits their capacity. Some of the other findings include:

  • Nearly two-thirds of jobs held by Indigenous workers are at risk of a skills overhaul, as data, robotics, and advanced technologies drive transformational change in sectors that many Indigenous communities depend on, like the skilled trades.
  • Even though Indigenous youth frequently use digital devices, they are less confident in their digital literacy skills than their non-Indigenous peers, with a 13-percentage-point gap emerging.
  • Rapid expansion of high-speed broadband internet and greater access to digital tools will be critical for Indigenous youth to take advantage of the decentralised post-pandemic economy and position them for new opportunities in online health and education services, e-commerce, and digitally-enabled mining, forestry, and agriculture.

To address these challenges, the report argues that equipping the next generation of indigenous Canadians with future-focused education, skills, and opportunities is a shared responsibility between different stakeholders. To this aim, it provides some recommendations:

  • Expand academic bridging programs at universities, colleges, and apprenticeship programs that boost fundamental and digital skills for Indigenous learners and improve outcomes in higher learning.
  • Address the significant gaps in Canada’s Indigenous labour market data by increasing funding for data collection and coordination under the federal indigenous skills and development training program.
  • Leverage recent investments in online education by school boards and post-secondary institutions to expand STEM course offerings for indigenous students through high-quality remote and hybrid learning in their schools.