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Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 2012

The Education and Employment Experiences of First Nations People Living Off Reserve, Inuit, and Métis: Selected Findings from the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey

Part A: The education and employment experiences of First Nations people living off reserve

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There is tremendous cultural diversity among First Nations people across the country as indicated by the more than 600 First Nations/Indian bands and over 60 Aboriginal languages reported by First Nations people. According to data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), 851,560 people identified as a First Nations person, representing 60.8% of the total Aboriginal population and 2.6% of the total Canadian population. Many First Nations people lived in Ontario and the western provinces, but they made up the largest shares of the total population of the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In 2011, 637,660 First Nations people reported being Registered Indians, representing 74.9% of all First Nations people. Of those who reported being Registered Indians, nearly one-half (49.3%) lived on an Indian reserve or Indian settlement.1

The analyses that follow examine the education and employment experiences of First Nations people living off reserve who, at the time of the Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS), were aged 18 to 44 and were not attending elementary or high school.

Section 1: Education pathways

Attending high school is the most common means of acquiring a secondary diploma in Canada, but youth can follow different pathways through the education system. Some enter and stay until they graduate, while others drop out. Those who drop out may re-enrol and earn a high school diploma or drop out more than once. Some who leave school before graduation may obtain an equivalency diploma by enrolling in classes offered through adult high schools, community colleges, or distance education programs.

This section looks at the education pathways of off-reserve First Nations completers and leavers aged 18 to 44. Completers are profiled in terms of variables such as age of completion, path to completion (high school versus equivalency program), and reasons for returning for those with a break in attendance. For leavers, age when last attended school, occurrences of dropping out and reasons for doing so, and current attendance at an equivalency program are examined.

It is important to recognize that some leavers may return to school in the future and obtain high school credentials. Moreover, high school graduation may not be the highest level of educational attainment of either completers or leavers, as some may also have a trades certificate, college diploma, or university degree. Postsecondary credentials are discussed in Section 3.

1. Completers

The majority (72%) of First Nations people aged 18 to 44 living off reserve had completed the requirements for a high school diploma or equivalent, according to the 2012 APS. This group is hereafter referred to as “completers.” The percentages for men and women did not differ significantly, at 69% and 74%, respectively. A higher proportion of off-reserve First Nations people without Registered Indian status were completers (78%), compared with those with Registered Indian status (69%). Data from the NHS show that 89% of non-Aboriginal people aged 18 to 44 had at least a high school diploma or equivalent in 2011.

Average age at high school completion

With the exception of Quebec,2 the typical student graduates from high school at age 18 (McMullen and Gilmore, 2010). According to the APS, the average age at which off-reserve First Nations completers obtained their high school credentials was 18.4 years. Those who completed an equivalency program (and hence, followed an indirect path to high school completion) were older (22.0 years) when they completed their high school requirements than those who graduated from a high school (18.0 years). This was true for both men and women.

Majority obtained diploma through high school

The majority (88%) of off-reserve First Nations completers obtained their high school diploma through attendance at a high school. There were no significant differences by gender.

Most who obtained their high school credentials through an equivalency program did so at an adult high school (45%) or at a college or technical institute (25%). An additional 14%E completed the equivalency program at a community center, and 5%E, through correspondence or another form of distance education such as on-line learning.

The majority (86%) of off-reserve First Nations completers followed a direct path through school. One in ten left school once, and 5%E, more than once. The percentages of male and female completers who finished high school without any breaks in attendance did not significantly differ: 87% and 85%, respectively.

Completers with a break in attendance were asked their main reason for returning to school. The majority (78%) returned because they “realized value of education/wanted a diploma.”

2. Leavers

In 2012, 28% of First Nations people aged 18 to 44 living off reserve had not completed the requirements for a high school diploma or equivalent. This group is hereafter referred to as “leavers.” A higher proportion of off-reserve First Nations people with Registered Indian status were leavers (31%), compared with those without status (22%). According to the 2011 NHS, the corresponding figure for the non-Aboriginal population was 11%.

Age when last attended school

Off-reserve First Nations leavers were, on average, 17 years old when they last attended school. No significant difference was found for male and female leavers.

While the majority (61%) of off-reserve First Nations leavers dropped out once, 39% did so two or more times. The likelihood of multiple departures did not differ significantly for men (36%) and women (41%).

Men and women drop out for different reasons

Research has shown that reasons for dropping out of school differ by gender. Data from the 2002 Youth in Transition Survey found students of both genders cited school-related reasons most frequently, but females were much more likely to report personal or family reasons, and males more often reported work-related factors (Bushnik, Barr-Telford and Bussière, 2004). 

The 2012 APS asked leavers why they left school. If they offered more than one reason, they were asked the “main” reason. Those who dropped out more than once were asked about their most recent departure.

The most common reasons off-reserve First Nations male leavers dropped out were: wanted to work (22%), lack of interest (17%), had to work/money problems (14%), and school problems3 (12%). Just over one-quarter (26%) of off-reserve First Nations female leavers cited pregnancy or the need to care for their own children as the main reason why they left school. An additional 14% reported they lacked interest.

One in eight leavers attending equivalency program

At the time of the APS, 12% of off-reserve First Nations leavers were attending a high school equivalency program. The percentages for male and female leavers did not differ significantly: 10% and 15%, respectively. Just under half of them (46%) were enrolled in an adult high school. A further 23%E were completing the program through some form of distance education; 15%E were doing so at a college or technical institute; and 10%E, at a community centre.  

Section 2: Experiences during last year of school

Why some students leave high school before they graduate, while others go on to earn a diploma is not easy to explain. The previous section examined specific reasons for leaving school, which can be viewed as the “proximal” reasons that immediately preceded departure. However, dropping out is not an isolated event that can be attributed to a single cause, but rather, a complex process that is influenced by factors associated with students, their families, the schools they attend, and their communities, the effects of which can begin to emerge in the early years of school attendance (see Rumberger 2011 for a review of the general population literature).

Data from the National Household Survey (NHS) show that in 2011, a larger share of First Nations people had not completed high school, compared with the non-Aboriginal population (Statistics Canada, 2013a). The 2012 APS collected data on factors that might be associated with completing or withdrawing from high school. These factors, while not exhaustive, cover a range of experiences and circumstances that are important from an Aboriginal perspective - at home, in school, and in the community (Canadian Council on Learning, 2009).

This section describes how First Nations people living off reserve aged 18 to 44 perceived their experiences during their last year of school. It is organized into three subsections. The first describes personal factors that may be associated with completing or leaving high school. The second subsection describes family experiences and support. The third examines the school environment. The guiding research question was, “Do the personal, family, and school-related experiences of high school completers and leavers differ?”

The topics analyzed in this section are based on respondents’ recollections, and therefore, may be subject to recall error. Moreover, differences between completers and leavers do not reflect simple “cause-and-effect” relationships with high school graduation; rather, the findings should be interpreted as being “associated with” being a completer or leaver.  

1. Personal experiences

This subsection explores some aspects of personal lives that are known to be associated with graduating from, or dropping out of, high school. The 2012 APS included the following measures of respondents’ personal experiences during their last year in school: educational performance (grades and repeating a grade), student engagement (absenteeism, participation in extracurricular activities, and employment), peers, and changing schools.

Completers more likely to have good grades

Respondents to the 2012 APS were asked about their overall grade average in their last year of school. Off-reserve First Nations completers were more likely than leavers to report mainly As (36% versus 19%) or Bs (43% versus 33%) (Chart A2.1). Conversely, leavers were more likely than completers to report mainly Cs (35% versus 17%) or Ds, Es and Fs (14% versus 3%). Female completers were especially likely to report mainly As - 42%, compared with 29% of male completers, 19% of female leavers, and 18% of male leavers.

Completers were less likely than leavers to have ever repeated a grade during their elementary or high school years (22% versus 44%) (Chart A2.1). Female completers were the least likely to have repeated a grade - 20%, compared with 27% of male completers, 41% of female leavers, and 47% of male leavers.

Skipping classes/Arriving late

Absenteeism behaviours such as skipping classes and arriving late are indicators of school disengagement, which research has shown to be related to dropping out (Rumberger, 2011). Respondents to the 2012 APS were asked how often they skipped classes (without parents’ permission) and arrived late during their last year of school. Off-reserve First Nations completers were less likely than leavers to report that, during their last year of school, they “often” skipped classes (18% versus 42%) or “often” arrived late (17% versus 31%) (Chart A2.1).

Chart A2.1

Description for chart A2.1

Extracurricular activities

Participation in extracurricular activities is an indicator of student engagement outside of school hours. Students who participate in extracurricular activities, particularly males involved in sports, are less likely to drop out of school (Rumberger, 2011). Data from the 2006 APS showed that playing sports or taking part in art or music activities at least once a week was associated with higher parent-rated school achievement among off-reserve First Nations children and youth (Bougie, 2009).

Respondents to the 2012 APS were asked if they participated in any of the following out-of-school activities during their last year of school: a sport or a physical activity or playing organized sports (including taking lessons); an art, drama or music group or club (including taking lessons); a school group or club (such as student council, yearbook or science club) or groups or clubs outside of school; activities related to First Nations, Métis or Inuit culture; spending time with Elders; and volunteering or helping without pay in the community.

Off-reserve First Nations completers were more likely than leavers to have participated in a sport or physical activity (50% versus 40%), in an art, drama or music group (26% versus 20%), or in a school group or club (21% versus 9%) or to have volunteered (29% versus 23%) at least once a week during their last school year (Chart A2.2). Completers and leavers did not differ significantly in the frequency with which they participated in cultural activities (9% and 12%) or in their involvement with Elders (both at 28%).

Male completers were the most likely to have participated in a sport or physical activity at least once a week during their last school year (60%). This compared with 46% of male leavers, 43% of female completers, and 34% of female leavers.

Chart A2.2

Description for chart A2.2

Completers read books more often

Analyses of data from the Program for International Student Assessment and the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS) have shown that students who dropped out of high school by age 19 had lower reading abilities at age 15 (Knighton and Bussière, 2006). Respondents to the 2012 APS were asked how often they read or looked at books, magazines, comics, etc. outside of school hours in their last year of school. Off-reserve First Nations leavers were less likely than completers to read books four or more times a week: 43% versus 51% (Chart A2.2). At 36%, male leavers were the least likely to read books four or more times a week. This compared with 46% of male completers, 49% of female leavers, and 54% of female completers.

Completers more likely to work 1 to 3 times a week

Working while attending high school is not necessarily detrimental to academic outcomes. According to results of the YITS, high school students who worked less than 20 hours a week were less likely to drop out than were those who did not work at all or who worked 30 or more hours a week (Bushnik, 2003). The 2012 APS asked respondents if they worked at a job (such as babysitting, working at a store, or tutoring) during their last year of school, and if so, how many times a week.

Off-reserve First Nations completers were more likely than leavers to report working 1 to 3 times a week (35% versus 21%). Leavers were more likely than completers to report not working or having worked less than once a week (50% versus 38%). The percentages who worked 4 or more times a week did not differ significantly (28% of completers and 29% of leavers) (Chart A2.3).

Male leavers were more likely to report not working or working less than once a week during their last year of school (56%), compared with male completers (43%), female leavers (44%) and female completers (34%). Female completers were the most likely to have worked 1 to 3 times a week - 38%, compared with 30% of male completers, 25% of female leavers, and 16% of male leavers.

Chart A2.3

Description for chart A2.3

Friends with risk behaviours

Having friends who engage in risk behaviours or who have dropped out of school has been shown to increase the odds that an individual will also leave school (Rumberger, 2011). APS respondents were asked how many of their closest friends during their last year of school skipped classes once a week or more; had a reputation for causing trouble; and smoked cigarettes, used drugs, and drank alcohol. Together, these questions can provide a profile of the number of friends with “risk behaviours.”

Off-reserve First Nations leavers were generally more likely than completers to report that “most” or “all” of their closest friends had risk behaviours. For instance, higher percentages of leavers than completers reported that “most” or “all” of their closest friends skipped classes once a week or more (33% versus 23%) and had a reputation for causing trouble (18% versus 8%) (Chart A2.4). Leavers were also more likely than completers to have many close friends who smoked cigarettes (58% versus 33%) and used drugs (29% versus 15%). The percentages of leavers and completers with many close friends who drank alcohol did not differ significantly (47% and 46%).

Male leavers were the most likely to report that “most” or “all” of their closest friends during their last year of school used drugs - 35%. This compared with 23% of female leavers, 17% of male completers, and 14% of female completers.

Chart A2.4

Description for chart A2.4

Friends with high education aspirations

APS respondents were asked how many of their closest friends during their last year of school thought completing high school was very important; were planning to further their education after high school; thought it was okay to work hard at school; and had dropped out. Together these questions can provide a profile of the number of friends with “high education aspirations.”

Off-reserve First Nations completers were consistently more likely than leavers to report that “most” or “all” of their closest friends had high education aspirations. For example, 77% of completers versus 51% of leavers had many close friends who thought completing high school was very important (Chart A2.4). Similarly, 61% of completers versus 34% of leavers had many close friends who planned education beyond high school. Completers were also more likely than leavers to have many friends who thought it was okay to work hard at school (60% versus 41%). Conversely, 26% of leavers versus 10% of completers reported that “most” or “all” of their closest friends had dropped out.

Support from friends  

Respondents were asked if at any time during their last year in school they needed support for personal problems, career choices, course schedules, or anything else. Among off-reserve First Nations people who said they had needed such support, 56% reported having received it from their friends. The percentages of completers and leavers who had received support from friends did not differ significantly (57% and 51%).

Leavers more likely to change schools frequently

Frequent school changes tend to increase the odds of dropping out. In a British Columbia study, Aman and Ungerleider (2008) found that graduation rates were highest among Aboriginal4 students who never changed high schools. They also reported that school changes due to regular grade progression (for example, from a middle school to a senior high school) did not affect graduation rates, while school changes for other reasons (for example, residential moves) were associated with lower graduation rates.    

APS respondents were asked how many schools they attended from preschool through Grade 6. Off-reserve First Nations completers were less likely than leavers to have changed schools frequently during their early school years: 42% of completers versus 53% of leavers reported they had attended three or more elementary schools.

Respondents were also asked the number of schools they attended starting in Grade 7. Again, completers were less likely than leavers to have attended three or more schools in their high school years: 28% versus 35%.

Those who had attended more than one elementary or high school were asked the reason for the last change. Completers were more likely to cite “regular progression through the school system” than leavers (57% versus 40%). Leavers were more likely than completers to have changed schools because of family moves (34% versus 25%).

2. Family-related experiences

The many personal factors that are associated with school outcomes are shaped by the different contexts in which students spend their time. The family is a key context that can influence students and their school achievement. The 2012 APS collected data on family support during respondents’ last year of school. 

Completers more likely to have parents who were involved in their school

Respondents were asked if their parents, guardians or other family members did the following during their last year of school: speak to or visit their teachers; attend a school event in which they participated; or participate in any other school activity. Off-reserve First Nations completers were consistently more likely than leavers to report family involvement at school. For example, 55% of completers versus 32% of leavers reported that their parents had attended a school event in which they participated (Chart A2.5).

Chart A2.5

Description for chart A2.5

Help with homework

Respondents were asked how often their parents, guardians or other family members checked or helped with homework in their last year of school. The percentages of off-reserve First Nations completers and leavers who received help with homework did not differ significantly. For instance, 31% of completers and 27% of leavers reported that their parents checked their homework at least once a week.

Completers and leavers received support from family  

The 2012 APS asked if, at any time during respondents’ last year in school, they needed support for personal problems, career choices, course schedules, or anything else. Among off-reserve First Nations people who had needed such support, 66% reported having received it from their parents, guardians, or other family members. The percentages of completers and leavers who had received support from their family did not differ significantly (69% and 58%).

Leavers less likely to live with family

The 2012 APS asked respondents if they lived with a parent, guardian or other family members during their last year of school. Close to a third (31%) of off-reserve First Nations leavers did not live full-time with family during their last year of school, compared with 19% of completers. 

About 38% of female leavers did not live full-time with family during their last year of school. This was higher than the percentages for male leavers (24%), female completers (22%), and male completers (16%).    

Siblings who dropped out

Students with a sibling who left school before completion are more likely to drop out themselves (Rumberger, 2011). The 2012 APS asked respondents if any of their brothers or sisters had ever dropped out of high school. Off-reserve First Nations leavers were more likely than completers to have siblings who had dropped out of school: 68% versus 43% (Chart A2.6).

Parents who graduated from high school

Parents’ education is considered a “human resource” that can influence children’s cognitive development, motivation, and educational aspirations (Rumberger, 2011). Respondents were asked the highest level of education that their mother and father had obtained. Completers were more likely than leavers to have parents with at least a high school diploma (Chart A2.6).

Chart A2.6

Description for chart A2.6

3. School-related experiences

Along with the family, the school itself can influence students and their academic success. A school’s policies and practices can create a climate that may promote or hinder student engagement and achievement.

School environment

The 2012 APS asked respondents if, during their last year of school, they felt safe and happy at school; if most students at the school enjoyed being there; and if the school offered parents many opportunities to be involved in school activities. Together, these questions constitute a “positive school environment” indicator.  Higher percentages of completers than leavers felt safe (94% versus 85%) and happy (87% versus 72%) at their school, and reported that most students enjoyed being there (85% versus 77%) (Chart A2.7). The percentages who said that their school offered parents many opportunities to be involved did not differ significantly: 68% of completers and 62% of leavers.

Respondents were asked if, during their last year of school, racism, bullying, alcohol, drugs, or violence were problems at school. Together, these questions constitute a “negative school environment” indicator. Leavers were more likely than completers to perceive a negative school environment. Higher percentages of leavers than completers reported that racism (40% versus 33%), bullying (54% versus 46%), drugs (53% versus 46%), and violence (43% versus 30%) were problems (Chart A2.7). No significant difference between leavers and completers was observed in alcohol being a problem at their school (27% and 26%).   

Chart A2.7

Description for chart A2.7

School support

The 2012 APS asked respondents if their school supported First Nations, Métis, or Inuit culture (through teaching or activities) during their last year there. The percentages of off-reserve First Nations completers and leavers who said that their school supported their culture did not differ significantly (46% and 50%).

Respondents were also asked if at any time during their last year in school they needed support for personal problems, career choices, course schedules, or anything else. Among those who had needed such support, 73% received it from teachers, guidance counsellors, or others at school. Completers were more likely than leavers to report receiving support from school staff (76% versus 63%).

Section 3: Postsecondary education experiences

In recent years, growing percentages of First Nations people have earned postsecondary credentials (CESC, 2007; Statistics Canada, 2008). Data for 2011 from the National Household Survey (NHS) show almost no gap between the First Nations and the non-Aboriginal populations in attainment rates at the trades and college levels; however, the gap at the university level remains wide (Statistics Canada, 2013a). Barriers to completion of postsecondary education for First Nations people living off reserve may include lack of academic preparation, the need to relocate (often from remote to urban areas), lack of financial resources, family responsibilities, and loss of support systems (Malatest et al, 2004; Holmes, 2005).         

This section describes the experiences of First Nations people living off reserve in obtaining postsecondary credentials.5 Because some high school leavers pursued postsecondary studies, comparisons between leavers and completers are made when appropriate.

The first subsection is a postsecondary education profile of off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44.6 The second focuses on those with postsecondary credentials (trades certificate, college diploma, university certificate below the bachelor’s level, university degree). The third subsection concerns those who started but never finished postsecondary education.

1. Postsecondary education profile

Four in ten with postsecondary credentials

At the time of the 2012 APS, 43% of off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 had postsecondary credentials; according to the 2011 NHS, the comparable figure for the non-Aboriginal population in the same age range was 64%. An additional 8% of off-reserve First Nations people were attending a postsecondary institution for the first time; 13% had started but did not finish postsecondary studies; and 36% had never attended a postsecondary institution.

In 2012, a higher percentage of off-reserve First Nations women than men had postsecondary credentials (49% versus 36%). Men were more likely than women to have started but not completed postsecondary education (17% versus 10%). The percentages of women and men who were attending a postsecondary institution for the first time did not differ significantly (9% and 7%).

As expected given their age, off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 24 were less likely than those aged 25 to 44 to have postsecondary credentials (20% versus 52%), but were more likely to be currently attending a postsecondary education institution for the first time (20% versus 3%).

About one in six leavers have postsecondary credentials

Over half (54%) of off-reserve First Nations high school completers had postsecondary credentials. This percentage was much smaller for leavers but nonetheless, 16% of high school leavers were postsecondary graduates. Completers were also more likely than leavers to be attending a postsecondary institution for the first time (10% versus 3%E). The percentages of completers and leavers who had started but never finished postsecondary studies did not differ significantly (Chart A3.1).  

Chart A3.1

Description for chart A3.1

2. Postsecondary graduates

Among off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 who were postsecondary graduates, close to half (46%) had a college diploma (13% graduated from a program of less than one year; 23%, from a one- or two-year program; and 10%, from a program of more than two years). A quarter (25%) had a trades certificate; another quarter (25%), a university degree; and 4%, a university certificate below the bachelor’s level.

According to the 2011 NHS, the comparable figures for non-Aboriginal postsecondary graduates aged 18 to 44 were 34% for college diplomas, 16% for trades certificates, 43% for university degrees, and 7% for university certificates below the bachelor’s level.    

Off-reserve First Nations men were more likely than women to have a trades certificate (45% versus 14%), while women were more likely than men to have a college diploma (52% versus 35%) or a university degree (29% versus 17%).

Leavers graduated from shorter programs

High school completers and leavers tended to graduate from different types of postsecondary programs. Among completers with postsecondary credentials, the most common were a university degree (26%), a college diploma from a one- or two-year program (25%), and a trades certificate (22%). Another 12% graduated from a college program of less than one year; 10%, from a college program of more than two years; and 4%, from a university certificate program below the bachelor’s level.

By contrast, among high school leavers with postsecondary credentials, 49% obtained a trades certificate; 22%E, a diploma from a college program of less than one year; and 9%E, a diploma from a one- or two-year college program.

Four in ten moved for postsecondary studies

Four in ten (40%) off-reserve First Nations people who had postsecondary credentials had moved to pursue their studies. The likelihood of moving varied with the type of credentials obtained. Six in ten (61%) university degree-holders moved, compared with 28% of those with a trades certificate, 35% with a college diploma, and 37%E with a university certificate below the bachelor’s level.   

As could be expected given the relatively high percentage who had a university degree, high school completers were more likely than leavers to have moved for postsecondary education (42% versus 20%E).

Distance education

Distance education can reduce obstacles to postsecondary education, such as costs or the need to re-locate, especially for people in remote areas (Canadian Council on Learning, 2009). The 2012 APS asked respondents if they were able to access any of their postsecondary courses through the Internet or another form of distance education, and if they used this method of instruction. About 20% of off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 who had postsecondary credentials used distance education; 14% had access to but did not use distance education. Two-thirds (66%) of postsecondary graduates reported that they did not have access to distance education, or that it was not applicable to their program or personal situation.

The percentages of high school completers and leavers who used distance education to complete their postsecondary program did not differ significantly (21% and 17%E).

Access to and use of distance education were associated with the type of credentials obtained. For instance, 80% of those with a trades certificate did not have access to distance education or reported that it was not applicable to their program or personal situation; this compared with 67% of those with a college diploma, and 54% of those with a university degree. Off-reserve First Nations people with a university degree were the most likely to have used distance education to complete their program - 35%, compared with 18% of those with a college diploma, and 7%E of those with a trades certificate.

Funding

The expenses associated with postsecondary education include not only tuition, but also, the costs of re-location, transportation, housing, food, daycare, and other family responsibilities (Malatest et al, 2004). APS respondents were asked if the money available for their education was sufficient to meet all their needs or expenses. More than one-quarter (28%) of off-reserve First Nations people who had postsecondary credentials reported that they did not have sufficient money.

The percentages of high school completers and leavers who said that they did not have enough money to fund their postsecondary studies did not differ significantly (28% and 30%).    

APS respondents were asked to indicate all7 their sources of funding for postsecondary education. Four in ten (38%) off-reserve First Nations people with postsecondary credentials had applied for and received a government student loan. Other sources included: own savings or working while going to school (61%); grants, bursaries or scholarships (41%); band funding or money from AANDC (39%)8; money from family that did not need to be repaid (30%); Employment Insurance or other government funding (23%); bank loan or line of credit (13%); and loan from family (5%).

High school completers were more likely than leavers to fund their postsecondary studies with their own savings or by working while going to school (63% versus 45%), with money from family that did not need to be repaid (33% versus 12%E), or with a bank loan or line of credit (14% versus 5%E). Leavers were more likely than completers to have received funding from Employment Insurance or other government funding (34% versus 22%).  

3. Started but never finished postsecondary education

Reasons for non-completion

APS respondents who started but never finished postsecondary studies were asked why they did not complete the program. Reasons cited by off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 included that they got a job or wanted to work (20%); they lost interest or lacked motivation (18%); financial reasons (16%E); they were pregnant or caring for their children (8%E); they had other family responsibilities (7%E); they had moved (6%E); or their courses were too hard (4%E). The only difference that emerged by gender was the expected exception of “pregnant/caring for own children,” which was mentioned more often by women.

One-third lacked funds

One-third (36%) of off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 who started but never finished postsecondary studies said that the money available was not sufficient to meet all their needs or expenses. The percentages of high school completers and leavers who had insufficient money for postsecondary studies did not differ significantly (37% and 30%).

Section 4: Current employment experiences

Employment rates and employment income of First Nations people have historically been lower than those of the non-Aboriginal population (Bernier, 1997; Wilson and MacDonald, 2010; Pendakur and Pendakur, 2011). Numerous factors have been related to the less favourable labour market outcomes of First Nations people. These include lower educational attainment, insufficient training, lower proficiency in one of the two official languages, lone parenthood, greater geographic mobility, and discrimination (Ciceri and Scott, 2006).

In recent years, the impact of the 2008 recession was greater and persisted longer for Aboriginal workers than for the non-Aboriginal population (Usalcas, 2011). Data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) show a lower employment rate among Aboriginal people, compared with the non-Aboriginal population.

In 2011, 49% of First Nations people were younger than 25, compared with 30% of the non-Aboriginal population (Statistics Canada, 2013b). It is important to understand the employment situation that these young First Nations people could encounter as they enter the labour market over the next couple of decades.

This section examines the employment experiences of off-reserve First Nations high school completers and leavers. Particular attention is paid to the role of education on various measures of employment. The first two subsections focus on people who were employed at the time of the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) - their employment profile and their earnings. The final subsection deals with those who were not working and barriers to employment.

1. Overall labour force profile

Completers more likely to be employed

At the time of their 2012 APS interview, 72% of off-reserve First Nations high school completers had a job; 9% were unemployed and looking for work; and 20% were not in the labour force (neither working nor looking for work) (Chart A4.1).

The labour force profile of leavers was different - 47% were employed; 15% were looking for work; and 37% were not in the labour force (Chart A4.1).

Chart A4.1

Description for chart A4.1

2. Off-reserve First Nations workers

According to APS data, the higher the level of education of completers and leavers, the more likely they were to be employed. It is important to note that even though they had not completed the requirements for a high school diploma, almost 40% of leavers who were employed had more than a high school education - 8% had a college diploma; 12% had a trades certificate; and 15% had at least some postsecondary education. 

Male leavers more likely than female leavers to be working

Men usually have higher employment rates than do women. Women often have additional family responsibilities, which can prevent them from fully participating in the labour force (Ferrao, 2010). These differences are reflected among off-reserve First Nations leavers, with men more likely than women to be employed: 59% versus 37% (Chart A4.2). This gap prevailed at most levels of education, except among male and female leavers with a trades certificate or a college diploma, who were equally likely to be employed.

Among completers, women were as likely as men to have a job (70% and 74%). The exception was female completers with a college diploma who were less likely than their male counterparts to be employed (71% versus 85%).

Chart A4.2

Description for chart A4.2

Young completers less likely to be employed

Generally, youth have lower employment rates than adults, mainly because many of them are still attending school, and therefore, may be unable or unwilling to hold a job (Shaienks and Gluszynski, 2009; Bernard, 2013). This tendency was reflected among younger and older off-reserve First Nations completers - 61% of completers aged 18 to 24 were employed, compared with 75% of those aged 25 to 44 (Chart A4.3). However, the observed difference between younger and older leavers who were employed (40% and 51%) was not significant.

Chart A4.3

Description for chart A4.3

Majority worked full-time

At the time of their 2012 APS interview, the majority of employed off-reserve First Nations completers (83%) and leavers (82%) were working full time. However, employed men were more likely than employed women to have full-time jobs. Among completers, 91% of men compared with 77% of women worked at least 30 hours a week; the corresponding percentages among leavers were 88% and 72%.

As expected, young off-reserve First Nations workers were less likely to work full time than were those aged 25 to 44: 68% versus 88%. The pattern was the same among completers and leavers.

Reasons for part-time work

The 2012 APS asked part-time workers the main reason why they were working less than 30 hours a week. Four in ten (38%) worked part time because they could not find full-time work. Leavers were more likely than completers to cite this reason: 56% versus 33%. Another 33% of completers and 8%E of leavers worked part time because they were studying at a postsecondary institution.

Median employment income range

The median employment income range of off-reserve First Nations completers was $30,000 to $40,000: $10,000 higher than that of leavers.9,10 For completers, higher education translated into higher median income. Completers with no education beyond high school had a median employment income in the $10,000-to-$20,000 range; those with some postsecondary reported $20,000 to $30,000. Completers with a college diploma or a trades certificate reported median income in the $30,000-to-$40,000 range, and those with a university degree, $40,000-to-$50,000.

The median employment income for leavers at all levels of schooling was in the $20,000-to-$30,000 range. The exception was leavers with some postsecondary education whose median was in the $30,000-to-$40,000 range.

Employment income differed for men and women. Generally, women tend to earn less than men because they are more likely to work part time or to have less job seniority as a result of work interruptions to care for family (Ferrao, 2010). Among off-reserve First Nations completers, women reported a median employment income range of $20,000 to $30,000, and men, $40,000 to $50,000. Among leavers, women’s median employment income range was $10,000 to $20,000, compared with $20,000-to-$30,000 for men.

3. Unemployed and not in labour force

Over half (52%) of off-reserve First Nations leavers and 29% of completers were not working at the time of their 2012 APS interview.11 More specifically, 15% of leavers were unemployed and 37% were not in the labour force; the corresponding figures for completers were 9% and 20% (Chart A4.1).

Reasons for not finding a job among unemployed

The most common difficulties cited by off-reserve First Nations people searching for work were a shortage of jobs (60%), lacking the necessary work experience (57%), not having the necessary training and education (50%), and not having transportation (39%).12

Unemployed completers and leavers were equally likely to cite job shortages, work inexperience, and no transportation as reasons for not finding a job (Chart A4.4). As expected, leavers were more likely than completers to say that they did not have the appropriate education or training (69% versus 38%).

Chart A4.4

Description for chart A4.4

Non-participation in labour force

Many people who are not in the labour force are retirees, homemakers, students or permanently unable to work. Others are waiting for replies from potential employers, waiting to be recalled to a former job, or discouraged as they believe no work is available. On the other hand, some who are not in the labour force do indeed want a job. This was the case for one third (31%) of off-reserve First Nations people who were not in the labour force.

The 2012 APS asked those who were not in the labour force but wanted a job why they did not look for work. The two main reasons were their own illness or disability (21%E) and going to school (18%E). One-quarter (26%E) of women said they did not look for work because they were caring for children, and 18%E of men said they were going to school.13

Section 5: Further education or training

The previous sections examined respondents’ past education experiences and their employment status at the time of the survey. The 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS) also asked off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 questions about their future education plans and obstacles to additional schooling.

Barriers such as cost, time constraints and family responsibilities can prevent people from taking the education or training they would like. Aboriginal students are particularly likely to face challenges in furthering their education (Canadian Council on Learning, 2009). Some, for example, may lack financial resources, or be unaware of help available through student aid programs. Other barriers may include skepticism about the employment benefits of additional education (which can lead to motivational issues), and experienced or perceived racism (Canadian Council on Learning, 2009).

Barriers to further education or training

According to the APS, the factors that prevent off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 from taking further education or training differed for high school leavers and completers. As well, differences by gender and age group emerged for certain barriers.

Leavers were more likely than completers to report that they lacked the confidence or felt unprepared to further their schooling - 42% identified this as a barrier, compared with 20% of completers (Chart A5.1). Leavers were also more likely than completers to report that furthering their education was not a personal priority (45% versus 25%).

As discussed earlier, the most frequent reason why female leavers dropped out of school was pregnancy or childcare responsibilities. Consistent with this finding, 62% of female leavers reported that personal or family responsibilities prevented them from taking further education. Female completers (36%), male leavers (38%) and male completers (24%) were less likely to cite this as a barrier.

Leavers were more likely than completers to report that time constraints (too busy, no time to study) kept them from taking further education or training: 36% versus 22% among men, and 40% versus 25% among women. As well, 40% of leavers aged 25 to 44 cited time constraints as an impediment, compared with 26% of completers in this age range. The figures among 18- to 24-year-olds were 35% for leavers and 18% for completers.

Financial considerations usually play a role in continuing education. Leavers were more likely than completers to report costs were a barrier (42% versus 34%), but this reflected the results for men (43% versus 30%). The percentages among women were not significantly different (41% and 36%).

Young completers were the least likely to report that costs kept them from further schooling. A quarter (27%) of completers aged 18 to 24 identified this barrier, compared with 41% of leavers in this age group, and 42% of leavers and 36% of completers aged 25 to 44.

Leavers were also more likely than completers to report that the courses that were available did not match their needs (26% versus 19%). As with cost, this reflected the results for men (29% versus 18%); the percentages for women did not differ significantly (23% and 20%). As well, leavers aged 25 to 44 were more likely than completers in this age range to report this barrier (26% versus 19%). The figures among 18- to 24-year-olds were not significantly different at 25% for leavers and 21% for completers.

Off-reserve First Nations female leavers were the most likely to report that their personal health prevented them from taking further education or training – 29%. This compared with 10% of female completers, 13% of male leavers, and 9%E of male completers.  

Chart A5.1

Description for chart A5.1

Two-thirds plan further education

Respondents to the 2012 APS were asked if they had plans to “take any other education that could be counted towards a certificate, diploma or degree from an educational institution.”14 Two-thirds (65%) of off-reserve First Nations people aged 18 to 44 reported such plans; an additional 4% were uncertain. While leavers were more likely than completers to plan further education (70% versus 63%), the majority of both groups had such plans.

The percentages of male leavers and completers who planned further education did not differ significantly (64% and 61%), but among women, leavers were more likely than completers to report that they planned to continue their education (75% versus 64%). As expected, 18- to 24-year-olds were more likely than those aged 25 to 44 to report plans for additional schooling (79% versus 59%).

Unemployed more likely to plan further education

Off-reserve First Nations people who were unemployed were more likely to plan further education (78%) than were those who were employed (63%) or not in the labour force (66%). This finding reflected the situation among men; the percentages of women who were unemployed or not in the labour force who reported plans for further education did not differ significantly.

At ages 18 to 24, the percentages of those who were employed, unemployed or not in the labour force with plans to further their schooling did not differ significantly. However, employed 25- to 44-year-olds (57%) were less likely than their unemployed (74%) counterparts to have such plans, while the percentage for those who were not in the labour force (62%) did not significantly differ from the employed or unemployed.

Notes

  1. A detailed analysis of the Aboriginal population based on the 2011 NHS is available in Aboriginal Peoples in Canada: First Nations People, Métis and Inuit.
  2. Given the structure of the educational system in Quebec, the typical student will graduate from high school one year younger than those in other provinces.
  3. The category “school problems” includes having problems with school work, with teachers, or being expelled.
  4. In this study, “Aboriginal” refers to students who self-identified as being Aboriginal in British Columbia’s Ministry of Education data, and thus, may include First Nations (Status and non-Status), Métis, and Inuit students.
  5. The 2012 APS allows for analysis of those who started but never finished postsecondary education. Similar data are not available from the 2011 NHS, as it asked only about the highest certificate, diploma or degree completed. Consequently, results from the two surveys are not directly comparable.
  6. While most individuals aged 18 to 24 would not be expected to have a university degree, the analyses include this age group because they could have obtained a trades certificate or a college diploma.
  7. Percentages for sources of funding do not add to 100% because respondents could indicate more than one source.
  8. Band or AANDC funding is available only to those with Registered Indian status. About 64% of respondents who self-identified as First Nations had Registered Indian status.
  9. Because personal employment income was reported in ranges, a median income range is calculated. The “median range” is the category for which the cumulative percentage of reporting respondents came closest to 50%.
  10. Data pertain only to those who were employed in the week before their APS interview and who reported their personal employment income.
  11. It is important to distinguish between the two categories of “not working.” Respondents who had actively looked for a job in the previous four weeks are defined as “unemployed”; those who did not work and did not look for work are classified as “not in the labour force.”
  12. Percentages do not add to 100% because respondents could identify more than one reason.
  13. The small sample size precludes further analysis by completion status and age.
  14. For respondents attending a postsecondary institution at the time of their APS interview, this referred to education beyond their current studies.
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