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WINNIPEG — When Kevin Chief finished his university degree, he wasn’t sure how to land his first real job.

The vice-president of the Business Council of Manitoba and former NDP cabinet minister, who grew up in Winnipeg’s North End neighbourhood, saw the barriers many of his Indigenous friends faced.

Chief’s basketball skills got him through university, but he didn’t have connections that could get him hired. When he walked through the doors of the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources Development, everything changed.

The centre connected Chief to an employment counsellor, prepared him for interviews and helped him build a resume.

"I wasn’t going to do very good in a job interview because I hadn’t done any," Chief said.

Most importantly, Chief said he finally had the confidence to pursue his dreams.

A new report looking at employment and skills outcomes in Canada by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows Indigenous people still face numerous barriers. But that changes when there are Indigenous-led programs like the one that opened doors for Chief.

The report found Indigenous people are more likely to be in lower paying jobs such as teaching, retail or social work. While more than 25 per cent of the Indigenous labour force work in sales and service occupations, they are significantly under-represented in management, business and finance.

Across Canada, the unemployment rate of Indigenous people is well above non-Indigenous people. The report said gaps in labour market participation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is particularly high in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Contributing factors include lower graduation rates, less access to skills training, as well as insecure childcare and housing. But even when Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have the same level of education, the report said they do not experience the same success.

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