Believe it or not, Canada's aboriginal community is in tune with business. Whether they decide to keep it local and within their bands or expand to partnerships with companies outside their communities, aboriginals are making an impact on the Canadian business landscape.
To foster the growth of these future entrepreneurs, partners, and businesspeople, post-secondary schools have taken note of the importance of aboriginal business opportunities in education.
What's to be learned?
Tailored for all students'aboriginal or non-aboriginal'who are interested in learning about the unique operations of business, the University of Manitoba introduced a brand new concentration, aboriginal business and economy, to their MBA program at the Asper School of Business.
Exploring topics like aboriginal economic perspective, aboriginal healing ways, and environment, economy and aboriginal peoples are just some of what's covered in the program's concentration.
It's absolutely open to anybody who's interested in learning more about what [aboriginals are] doing, says Wanda Wuttunee, professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba. We have a huge economic footprint in Canada and people don't always realize. It's a really good opportunity for many people to be educated on what's going on.
Alternatively for the Ch'nook aboriginal management program offered at the Sauder School of Business at University of British Columbia, the students enrolled in the program come from aboriginal backgrounds. We give them good business skills, but we don't forget to face that their backgrounds potentially are different, says Dr. Mahesh Nagarajan, a professor in the program. Business skills are the same; we don't compromise on the standards of those but we do tailor it to the context of where they come from and what they're looking for.
Students can expect to study fundamental business disciplines like economics, entrepreneurship, accounting, and marketing. Uniquely, the program is designed to help develop entrepreneurial skills for aboriginals to take back to their bands or communities.
What we do and what I think we do very well is we give them a tailored program, and differentiate this product to this market, he says. We also bring in industry folks to give them context on what it's like to start a business in a band, adding that it's a much different approach compared to starting a business in downtown Vancouver, for instance.
For anyone who's interested and anyone who's working in Manitoba, not understanding the opportunities of working with aboriginal businesses makes them less competitive, says Wuttunee. So through this concentration, students are able to develop insight, skills, and are recognized as being valuable.
And for aboriginals in the aboriginal management program, Nagarjaran says there are many entrepreneurs with exceptional business ideas within these communities. I think what they often lack is the idea that to do what they want often takes a whole bunch of different skills and rigorous business skills, he explains. What we tell them is to never forget the context of what they're doing, be completely respectful to that, but give them tools that any regular business would have.
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