Recognized as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2018)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 8, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Northwestel Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top Employers for Young People (2018):
- Northwestel provides tuition subsidies for job-related courses (up to $2,000 per year) and maintains a Northern Futures Scholarship program, awarding 6 scholarships of up to $4,000 per year to students pursuing advanced education in engineering, finance, marketing and business
- The company also tries to connect scholarship recipients with summer employment for the duration of their school program and offers full-time employment upon graduation
Fast-paced change in a small-town setting at Northwestel
Few people have a better perspective on how much the telecommunications industry has changed than Curtis Shaw. Shaw came to Northwestel Inc., the Whitehorse, Yukon-based subsidiary of Bell Canada, 21 years ago, fresh out of grad school. "When I first started, it was a fairly older-male-dominated engineering organization, providing telephone service
and long distance with little to no competition." he says. Since the Internet, it's become a different ball game -- and with different players. "Lots of change can happen in a matter of weeks and months," adds Shaw, now the Chief Operating Officer. "Fifteen or 20 years ago, change took a long time."
Naturally, legacy workers -- those with decades of experience -- are still in high demand, but over the past several years Northwestel has been focusing on recruiting younger people, particularly those who live in or may be returning to northern Canada. And there are big draws. "You get all the benefits of small-town living," says Shaw, "and you get great exposure to the telecommunications industry and all the work we're doing around broadband and broadband connectivity across northern Canada."
Working for a small company means that even young recruits get wide exposure to different areas of the company. That's been one of the real benefits for Jeff Gart-shore, who started as a summer student in 2011. "What I really appreciated was the responsibility I was given right off the bat," says Gartshore, now an Associate Director of Accounting. "I ended up contributing to reports that went to our board of directors. It was cool to be given those opportunities at a young age and also receive enough support that it wasn't daunting."
In the summer before his last year of university, Northwestel awarded Gartshore one of the six $4,000 scholarships it gives out every year to students in business & commerce, computer science, electrical engineering or telecommunications. The scholarships are part of Northwestel's focus on drawing younger recruits. Scholarship candidates -- typically those who have been born and raised in the North -- are given first preference for summer work. "That gets them some exposure to the culture, the people and the environment," explains Shaw. "It's teaching them some of the skills they might not get in academic life. And if it's successful and they like the environment and we like them, there's normally permanent work at the end of it."
And there are many other benefits to working at Northwestel, including, among other things, excellent compensation, a travel allowance, and an employee share purchase plan. The learning doesn't stop once you're hired - Northwestel contributes $2,000 per year to tuition, courses and advanced learning. Then there's the draw of living in a small town. "You don't have the commute, you have affordable housing, you have all the benefits of working for Bell Canada but working in a small-town environment," says Shaw.
On top of that, there's unlimited all-season outdoor activities, a great arts scene, microbreweries, the world famous Yukon Quest, as well as opportunities for community involvement -- particularly in areas in which Northwestel invests: Indigenous community and culture; youth and sports; and health and mental wellness. Any employee who gets involved in any of the charities or NGOs in the North receives matching funds for their volunteer time. And the company gives paid time off to employees who volunteer or coach for the Canada Games or Arctic Winter Games.
Shaw can't believe it's been two decades since he came to Northwestel or how much the environment has changed. "It's a really dynamic place -- week to week, it's never mundane," he says. "It's been a lot of challenge, a lot of fun and a lot of excitement working for a small company in a big industry."