Competency Category:

13.1 – Work with Indigenous Clients

Purpose & Context

Career Development Professionals (CDPs) recognize that a person’s values and beliefs may be aligned or different to those associated with their cultural background. CDPs reflect on their own values, beliefs and biases and seek to understand those of their clients. CDPs challenge their own assumptions and avoid stereotypes that might negatively impact the well-being of the client and the outcomes of career development interventions.To prepare to work with Indigenous clients, CDPs develop an understanding of the diverse histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs of Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples), and reflect on how these may impact their expectations regarding work, education and training. CDPs gather information on barriers and challenges the client may be experiencing and identify relevant resources. Career Development Professionals (CDPs) help clients prepare for seeking employment by identifying which skills are required and helping them improve on these to aid their job search.

Effective Performance

Competent career development professionals must be able to:

  • P1. Reflect on values the client may share with own cultural background, for example:
    • Importance of language and traditional customs
    • Sustainability for future generations
    • Respect for the teachings of Elders and Knowledge keepers
    • Importance of listening
    • Interconnectedness of all living things
    • Importance of family and community
  • P2. Identify challenges and barriers Indigenous clients may be facing, on-reserve and off-reserve, for example:
    • Language barriers
    • Literacy barriers
    • Lack of local resources for education, training, or community services
    • Racism and discrimination
    • Poverty
    • Limited work experience
    • Health conditions
    • Child and/or Elder care responsibilities
    • Distance between work and community
    • Transition from on-reserve to off-reserve setting
    • Inadequate housing
    • Intergenerational trauma
    • Social isolation
    • Lack of access to IT
    • Lack of trust in social systems
    • Underrepresentation of Indigenous persons working as service providers
    • Disconnect from culture
  • P3. Select potential tools and resources designed for Indigenous people that might be useful to support the process,
    e.g. employment-focused resources, community services and programs, associations, service providers, employers,
  • P4. Reflect on how the career development approach might be tailored to meet client’s needs, for example:
    • Explain legal protections relevant to the client, e.g. Canadian Human Rights Act
    • Identify client’s support networks, e.g. family, community
    • Use culturally relevant approaches, e.g. life stories, guiding circles, life mapping, possible selves,
      dependable strengths
    • Identify strategies to support employers in the recruitment, selection and retention of Indigenous people, e.g.
      revise hiring process to eliminate barriers to full participation in all aspects of employment
    • Develop Indigenous mentor programs to support clients
    • Develop training programs and retention strategies with Indigenous communities and leaders
    • Identify educational programs to address educational needs, e.g. alternative education program
    • Identify job maintenance strategies, e.g. encourage employer to engage elders to review on-boarding process,
      build aboriginal awareness within workplace, develop cultural leave policy
    • Develop a community engagement outreach program

Knowledge & Understanding

Competent career development professionals must know and understand:

  • K1. Histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs of First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations
  • K2. Historical impact of Canadian policies on Indigenous people
  • K3. Impact of residential schools, e.g. cycle of trauma, intergenerational trauma
  • K4. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action
  • K5. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
  • K6. Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
  • K7. Legislation impacting Indigenous clients, e.g. Canadian Human Rights Act
  • K8. Current Indigenous issues, e.g. land claims
  • K9. Benefits of employing Indigenous workers
  • K10. Benefits of diversity in the workplace
  • K11. Labour market information specific to Indigenous people
  • K12. Local programs to support Indigenous training and development
  • K13. The impact of cultural background on career development
  • K14. Strategies to boost recruitment and selection of Indigenous employees:
    • Review work to identify or create job opportunities
    • Identify possible key barriers to employment specific to the organization
    • Review job description to identify essential requirements for selection and non-essential requirements for
      training and development
    • Develop pre-employment or on-boarding strategies to address barriers, e.g. driver’s license, on-the-job
      training, partnering with educational institutions to improve literacy and numeracy
    • Develop training programs and recruitment strategies with Indigenous communities and leaders
  • K15. Retention strategies to employers:
    • Develop diversity and inclusion human resources policies
    • Accommodate Indigenous traditional and community/family obligations
    • Deliver Indigenous cultural awareness training
    • Develop employee assistance programs to meet unique challenges

Contextual Variables

Competent career development professionals must be able to perform this competency in the following range of contexts:


Glossary & Key References


Industry-specific terms contained in the standard defined here, where applicable.

First Nations: term that includes status and non-status Indigenous people (excluding Métis and Inuit) and can also refer to bands.

Indigenous: term used in Canada to collectively describe Inuit, First Nations, and Métis

Inuit: Indigenous people living in northern Canada

Métis: distinct, self-defining Indigenous people who posess both First Nations and Euro-Settler ancestry.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action: recommendations for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to redress the legacy of residential schools and to create a reconciled relationship.

Information Sources and Resources for Consideration

Through an Aboriginal Lens: Exploring Career Development and Planning in Canada. Career Development Practice in Canada. Perspectives, principles, and professionalism. Chapter thirteen, pp 297-330. Natasha Caverley, Suzanne Stewart, Blythe C. Shepard. CERIC Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling. Toronto, Canada, 2014.

Zunker, Vernon G. Career Counselling: A Holistic Approach 9th edition. Boston: Loose-leaf Edition, 2016. ISBN-10: 978-1-305-40106-8.

Canadian Geographic. Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada. Royal Canadian Geographic Society. Ottawa, Canada, 2018.

Context Rating Scales


Q: What is the consequence of a professional being unable to perform this skill according to the standard?

Moderate risk: CRITICAL


Q: How frequent and under what conditions is this skill performed?

Routinely, regular course of procedure

Level of Difficulty

Q: Under routine circumstances, how would you rate the level of difficulty in performing this skill?

Moderate difficulty or complexity

Time Required to Gain Proficiency

Q: What is the average length of time or number of repeated events that are minimally necessary for an individual to become proficient in performing the skill to the standard?

A competent career development professional requires a minimum of one year of experience with at least 40 different clients, representing a broad range of individuals, including Indigenous clients.


Practitioners typically perform this competency without supervision, and alone.


It is unlikely that this competency will automate.

Requisite Work Aids, Tools, Equipment or Materials


Career Development Professional Centre

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