Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Decolonizing Employment: Aboriginal Inclusion in Canada's Labour Market

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Decolonizing Employment: Aboriginal Inclusion in Canada's Labour Market

Article excerpt

Decolonizing Employment: Aboriginal Inclusion in Canada's Labour Market. By Shauna MacKinnon. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press, 2015. ISBN-978-0887557811

Shauna MacKinnon's book, Decolonizing Employment: Aboriginal Inclusion in Canada's Labour Market, examines the impact of Aboriginal skill-training programs are having on Aboriginal exclusion from the labour market. MacKinnon delivers a clear and well-articulated political economy account of the failure of neoliberal social policy to redress the issue of Aboriginal exclusion from the labour market. She also provides a number of concrete solutions and recommendations for improvements of already existing programs. Paramount among these is the holistic approach to Aboriginal education that decolonization pedagogy reflects. She describes decolonization pedagogy as a focus on cultural knowledge, new curriculum design, historical accounts of colonialism, and emphasizing the values of Indigenous peoples (p. 70). MacKinnon identifies that the skill-training programs that work around pedagogy of decolonization offer improved self-esteem and confidence to their graduates. Mackinnon provides a convincing argument about the failures of neo-liberal policy in addressing Aboriginal unemployment. I will begin by discussing the structure of her book. I will then review the strengths of her book. I will conclude with some areas that still require expansion and clarification in her work. Overall, Decolonizing Employment is an extremely informative and well researched book, which provides a nuanced discussion of the barriers surrounding Aboriginal employment under contemporary Canadian colonialism and neo-liberal policy.

Mackinnon's book skillfully undertakes a political economy analysis of the colonial relations of the Canadian labour market and Canadian state. Her work makes a number of positive contributions. The book is divided into two parts. The first section of the book provides an overview of neo-liberal social policy in Canada and the labour market barriers encountered by Aboriginal peoples. The second section of the book examines the impact of supply side labor market policies on adult Aboriginal learners in Manitoba. The core argument of her book is that short-term training programs do have a role to play in supporting Aboriginal adults, especially, if they incorporate pedagogy of decolonization, but neo-liberal policy is not a solution to the myriad problems of colonialism (p. 183). I will now turn to address her core findings.

Decolonizing Employment makes a number of contributions to critiques of neo-liberal social policy. Centrally, she deconstructs the myth of skills mismatch that has been a mainstay of neo-liberal policy makers (p. 20). MacKinnon contends that supply side programs do not change employment trends in any meaningful way as there are no mechanisms to ensure that trainees find employment upon completion. Furthermore, the programs are unable to measure their success as they are not tracking placement rates post-graduation. As MacKinnon describes: "[h]ow do we know if labour market policies are lifting people out of poverty, improving health and well-being, and leading to jobs that are fulfilling if we don't know where people end up" (p. 162)? On this point, her work makes the invaluable contribution to the problem of evidence with supply side approaches. Her thirty-six interviews with 25 program graduates and 11 instructors reveal that there are major gaps between completion and the attainment of work in the field of training (p. 125). To make matters worse the Government of Manitoba allows adult learners to access a cost of living allowance "in addition to covering the costs of tuition, books, and supplies" (p. 146). This proves problematic due to the economic marginalization most Aboriginals face.

Moreover, there are various assumptions on the part of employers' structure hiring criteria. …

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