On a “listening tour” last year, OpenText heard one message “loud and clear” from its employees, according to Susan Hailey, vice president of global talent acquisition and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI): “Finding and getting work is a really big topic for people from underrepresented communities.”
The response from CEO Mark J. Barrenechea and executive leadership, she says, was “let’s create jobs, and let’s create internships.”
As a result, Waterloo, Ontario-based OpenText, in partnership with Canada’s Lakehead University, announced last month that it will be offering paid internships to Indigenous students enrolled at the university. The four-month program will allow students studying at Lakehead’s Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses to intern remotely at OpenText in the software engineering, marketing, finance, information technology, professional services, and human resources departments.
The first recruitment for the OpenText Indigenous Internship Program will take place this fall, with placements occurring during the summer of 2022.
Hailey says the program is an expansion of OpenText’s longstanding EDI efforts. “As a tech company we had really focused on women, because not only was that an issue in tech in general, but it was a global issue and we're in 34 countries, so it was something that made sense.”
As the company looked to expand its EDI outreach, Hailey says, it had already begun a conversation with Lakehead. Both OpenText and Lakehead University acknowledge the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, released in 2015. The TRC provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system a platform to share their stories and experiences. In a class action settlement, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) in 2007 recognized the damage inflicted on Indigenous peoples by the residential schools, which some 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and communities to attend, and established a multibillion-dollar fund to help former students in their recovery.
After OpenText's listening tour, according to Hailey, the conversation with Lakehead moved to the next level with the formation of the internship program. “We also were very clear that we wanted to not just provide a job, but provide experience they could put on their resume,” she explains.
Applicants should be strong students, though not necessarily at the top academic tier, with good communications and leadership skills, and have some extracurricular activities. “We’re looking for potential,” Hailey says.
OpenText plans to hold a virtual Q&A session for interested students featuring company executives detailing their areas of expertise and backgrounds. “We want to make sure there aren't any barriers to people feeling like, ‘Gosh, none of these executives look like me. Is that going to be a place I'll feel comfortable?’” Three of the six internship areas have female leaders, Hailey notes.