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Building a cloud talent pool in Indigenous communities

Being digital first and future-ready involves more than investing in technology. BMO is also investing in skills development, levelling the playing field for talented individuals from diverse communities and empowering all employees to build careers at BMO in ways that matter to them. 

While supporting talent from within is essential, BMO also wanted to create a pipeline of external talent and encourage everyone to develop their cloud skills. The answer: the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re/Start program, a cohort-based workforce development training program that helps individuals, regardless of their technological or professional background, build cloud computing skills and connect with local employers offering career opportunities. 

For the first re/Start program cohort, BMO partnered with PLATO, Canada’s only Indigenous-owned and Indigenous-staffed technology services and training firm. With help from PLATO, BMO focused our efforts on outreach to Indigenous communities in Canada. 

“Partnering with PLATO was a wonderful way to expand our footprint. In the past, we relied on finding employees based in Toronto, and that limited our reach into Indigenous communities.” 

– Victor Tung
Chief Information and Operations Officer for BMO Capital Markets

The program recruited individuals from universities and Indigenous communities across Canada. Twenty-two students enrolled, completing a 12-week cloud computing training program followed by a six-month internship at BMO that allowed them to learn and apply those skills on the job – with the possibility of full-time employment afterwards. 

One of those students, Kennedy Littlewolfe, was working at a department store in Saskatchewan when she heard about the program. AWS re/Start was just the thing for her, as she had an interest in technology but little experience. “I wasn’t coming from a technology background, but the material was very well-paced and easy to follow,” Kennedy says. “It was intense at the beginning because I hadn’t had any other exposure to cloud computing or programming, but the hands-on nature of the program showed me that I could see myself doing this as a career.” Kennedy is now working full-time with BMO as a software developer. 

Another participant, Douglas Sinclair, also benefitted from the program. Douglas was a music teacher and studio manager for 18 years before enrolling at the University of Toronto to study digital design and technical writing. After graduating with honours, he applied for a UX design position at BMO. When the recruiter mentioned the AWS re/Start program, he jumped at the chance. “It was a big change for me, but I’m very happy I did it,” Douglas says. “It gave me an opportunity to bridge into a new career in technology. The curriculum was very interesting, and it gave a good high-level overview of modern technology.” 

Both Kennedy and Douglas have found full-time employment with BMO as software developers. Tung says the results have been immediately apparent – the program tapped into huge demand in Indigenous communities, and created a lot of excitement within the company. A second cohort is already in the works. 

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