At least one aboriginal-owned company in Manitoba says it's difficult to find enough aboriginal employees, but there is hope that a growing number of post-secondary graduates will eventually change that.
A new report by the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business has found that as aboriginal-owned companies grow, so does the challenge of finding qualified aboriginal employees.
That challenge has been noticed by Sean McCormick, the Métis owner and chief executive officer of Winnipeg footwear manufacturer Manitobah Mukluks.
McCormick says he has an "aboriginal first" hiring policy for jobs at all levels of his company, in an effort to give back to the community.
Almost 90 per cent of McCormick's administration is aboriginal, but he said finding high-level executive staff hasn't been easy.
"Our community just doesn't have the capacity where we have a bunch of aboriginal people that are lawyers or doctors or, you know, CGAs or what have you," he told CBC News.
McCormick said a key issue is poverty, and it's one that cannot be solved simply "by giving people jobs and hoping they keep them.
"We need better education, we need better social infrastructure, like clean water," he said.
College hosts largest group of aboriginal graduates
Red River College hosted its largest group of aboriginal graduates on Friday, including Elise Pierre, a graduate in business administration and marketing.
"Today just demonstrates that more and more aboriginal people are going into post-secondary [schools] and hopefully in the next few years there will be more qualified aboriginal peoples to work in these aboriginal-based companies," she said.
Pierre said barriers remain for those who want to pursue a post-secondary education, noting that two of her classmates came from First Nations communities only to drop out of school.
"If you don't come here with any friends or family, it's really hard to try to find a base in Winnipeg, like a support system," she said.
Pierre said now that she has qualifications, she is exploring all her options, such as working for an aboriginal-owned business or even starting her own.