Joining Forces with Sandy Bay First Nation

(Photo: Stephen Desmarais signs his North West employment documents with his wife Faith Desmarais)

Opportunity knocked in the right place, at the right time for Stephen Desmarais.

Desmarais aspires to pursue a career as a Meat Manager, and thanks to a recent partnership between The North West Company and Sandy Bay First Nation, MB, his home community, he’s on his way to making that dream a reality.

As a way to enhance employment opportunities for their members, Sandy Bay First Nation began a meat cutting program in June of 2017, providing essential training for people wanting to work in processing plants or retail food establishments.

Shortly after the program began, The North West Company was starting to implement meat cutting departments within its Northern Stores, a change in operations that required new employees with meat cutting skills.

“Our Talent Attraction Specialist, Christian Houjeij, was tasked with finding various meat cutting programs across Canada and found out Sandy Bay First Nation was running a program in Manitoba,” said Czarina Macalalad, the Manager of Stores Recruitment at The North West Company. “I called them immediately and within a week our Merchandise Manager and recruitment team booked a trip up to the school, took a tour of the facility, met with the instructors and interviewed students.”

Three successful candidates were offered employment at the North West Company, including Desmarais, who officially joined the company on February 26, 2018. He, along with his wife Faith and two children, have been relocated to the Rossville Best Practices and Training store, where he is now being trained as a Meat Supervisor.

The new partnership is a success both for The North West Company and for Sandy Bay First Nation. North West’s recruitment team plans to meet with each group of students upon graduation to provide information about the opportunities the company has to offer.

“We are the largest employer of Indigenous people in Canada and would like to continue maintaining and increasing those numbers,” says Macalalad.

Sandy Bay Chief Lance Roullette was pleased that The North West Company has reached out to the community. “This is a prime example of a relationship that promotes win-win situations and tackles one of the biggest issues relating to employment,” he said.