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Telco recognized for diversity efforts

For the second year in a row, Northwestel has been selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers.

For the second year in a row, Northwestel has been selected as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.

“We’re certainly excited to win this two years in a row, that’s for sure,” said Lee Vincent, of Northwestel’s department of human resources.

The company employs more than 600 people across the North.

“First and foremost our strategic focus is on having our employee base match or look like our customer base, which is a bit of an ever-changing goal,” said Vincent.

“It is really quite diverse. Eleven per cent of our work force is aboriginal, 38 per cent is female, another 10 per cent is visible minority, and four per cent of our work force is persons with disabilities.”

But the focus on diversity isn’t just an effort to win awards - it’s a business strategy for the telco.

“We really strongly believe that if our employees look and feel like the communities we do business in then we’re going to do a better job connecting with our customers because we are our customers,” said Vincent.

Northwestel has a number of programs designed to foster diversity within the company, including student scholarship programs and educational opportunities.

Technician Deb Enoch has taken advantage of both.

Enoch, a member of the White River First Nation who grew up near Beaver Creek, says she always wanted to work with technology.

Back when Northwestel was still owned by the Canadian National Railway, she signed up for a three-year training program. Before she had a chance to finish it, the company hired her and 27 years later she’s still there.

Her first job was in human resources. When an opportunity came up to take an electronic technician’s course, she jumped on it.

Northwestel kept her on the payroll while she was in school and put her in a technician’s job when she finished.

“I never envisioned myself being in this position,” she said. ” But I really enjoy it.”

While the company is proud of the work it’s done to diversify its workforce, there’s always more to be done, said Vincent.

“We don’t want to sit on our laurels and say OK we’ve got it nailed down pat,” said Vincent.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities for us to continue to improve in this area.”

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