Aboriginal business entrepreneur awarded Eagle Feather
By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly
Massey Whiteknife of ICEIS Group of Companies was honoured with the Eagle Feather Award during the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction in Edmonton on February 26.
“I’m at peace,” said Whiteknife during a phone interview. He was speaking in regards to not only his recent honour in the Province’s capital, but to his career as a whole at the young age of 36.
The award ceremony is hosted annually by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce in the Province’s capital. Sponsored by the Sawridge Group of Companies, the Eagle Feather Award is honoured to “a First Nation, Métis or Inuit owned business that demonstrates outstanding achievement in business and incorporated entrepreneurial and cultural concepts into its operation for long-term success.”
A well-established entrepreneur as the CEO of ICEIS Group in Fort McKay, Whitekknife believes his Get Ready Program was a key factor in the recognition.
In 2012, Whiteknife, a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta and current resident of the Fort MacKay First Nations Reserve, established a summer camp program to develop career confidence in Aboriginal, Inuit and Métis youth, including disadvantaged and at risk groups, looking to work in the oil and gas, and construction industries.
Two years later and with big dreams of transforming how the structured educational system sent Aboriginal youth into the workforce, the Get Ready Program offers 18 internationally accredited courses by the Canadian Council of Professional Certification and the Indigenous Certification Board of Canada.
The program further provides mentorship after the courses are completed to ensure each student doesn’t “feel alone through the employment process.” This unique approach offers students continued support when dealing with “first time” work experiences.
Whiteknife explains how he further established the program based on overcoming his personal insecurities in the workplace as a troubled and abused youth.
“When I was working, and when I left my community, I felt that aloneness,” he said. “I made the program based on how I succeeded. From being bullied and molested and abused, I was a really scared person and going to a new job, I felt that fear of judgement. I developed the program in the way that I made my career a success and let students know that they can overcome their fear.”
The idea for Get Ready Program first came from Whiteknife’s personal educational experience that left him confused and unsettled.
“I took a program with a trainer that came into our community and provided us courses. When it was done, I thought: What do I do now? There was nothing further. To me, that struck a chord,” he explained. “I said to myself: I’m going to start this company, and I’m going to create a program.”
The unique approach to the seven-day program has brought an 80 per cent success rate to graduates. With the high results, Whiteknife, an 18-year established training professional, has since travelled across Alberta and British Columbia to over 100 First Nation communities to promote the program.
“I know I have something here that will help my people and help Canadians,” he said.