BC Hydro's experience
Sterritt said she was drawn to BC Hydro not only to facilitate more aboriginal engagement; but also to help with the many capital projects being developed in remote locations.
"These communities are going to be around a long time and so are we, so we'd better do something different," Sterritt said.
She added that in some cases, working with First Nations means owning up to past mistakes.
If a company is new to this change in engagement, Sterritt advised, it can be best to try for incremental change rather than tackling a big problem all at once.
The BC Hydro process is to first create awareness through outreach, scholarships and site visits, then create skill-building through youth programs and pre-apprentice programs as well as supporting training for pre-requisites. Training consists of apprenticeships and other aspects of corporate work, and finally hiring and retaining.
In the last year BC Hydro has had 53 Aboriginal hires, and 18 out of 20 youth hires were Aboriginal. BC Hydro also completed and implemented a new Aboriginal procurement policy and supported procurement and capital projects across the province.
"Demonstrate leadership, be courageous and challenge your assumptions," Sterritt said," and don't be fearful of doing the wrong thing."
Sterritt also said it's important to approach a community with a long-term relationship in mind. "If you're coming just to get what you need short term, they can see you coming a mile away," she said.
The challenge of creating world class proposals
The main challenge with nations, Brown said, is to create world class proposals, and instead of hiring consultants, he appealed to those in the room to assist First Nations to meet this challenge.
Best practices, Brown said are to realize that every nation is different. Find out the "ask" of the nation. Is it jobs, economic development, or social benefit? He added one can also talk to those who have already done business with a nation, and the federal government has first nation profiles and organization management status web sites.