by Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – TD Bank has started its first-ever scholarship for Indigenous students pursuing post-secondary education, in partnership with the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association (AFOA) of Canada.
The scholarship offers $15,000 a year for up to four years for 25 high school and university students who are Indigenous, as well as a mandatory paid summer internship with TD.
Joshua Cayer, the diversity talent recruiter for Indigenous Peoples at TD, told Alberta Native News his job is “to ensure that TD’s current and future workforce is reflective of the communities in which we operate and serve.”
The scholarship program was the product of “acknowledging and recognizing that students from the Indigenous community face unique challenges and systemic barriers that can make getting a post secondary education difficult,” Cayer said.
According to StatCan’s 2011 National Household Survey — the most recent one from which data is available — 48.4 per cent of Indigenous people had a post-secondary qualification, compared with 64.7 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.
This disparity becomes starker when you look at the percentage of those with a university degree — 9.8 per cent for Indigenous people compared to 26.5 per cent for non-Indigenous.
To make the scholarship as accessible as possible, there are no lengthy essay requirements, nor are there any requirements to have done extensive volunteer work.
“We’ve also removed pressure to maintain a set minimum GPA,” Cayer added.
Instead, the application requires applicants to answer a short question, provide two references from people who aren’t family members, and a “commitment to accept summer internships at TD during the years of study,” he said.
AFOA will help applicants with their applications as needed.
The internships last from May to August and will be located across the country “across various lines of business,” said Cayer.
The intention is for the internship to “align with the career goals and educational aspirations of recipients,” he added.
In the event recipients don’t have a TD office where they’re located, there’s an opportunity for a hybrid of virtual and in-person work.
“TD remains committed to helping create a positive experience at every touch point along the way for all customers and communities we serve,” Cayer said, adding that as a result, TD is committed to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
Call to Action 92(ii) calls on corporations to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to “[e]nsure that indigenous peoples have equitable access to jobs, training,and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that indigenous communities gain long term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.”