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Correctional service seeks Native applicants.

DRUMHELLER, Alta.

Correctional Services Canada has got a blitz on to hire 1,000 correctional officers across Canada over the next three years. About 300 of these positions will be located in the Western provinces.

Warden Tim Fullerton at Drumheller Institution in Drumheller, Alta., says there are two ways to enter their employ -- as a correctional officer or as a clerk. He says they look for people who can "act as role models and interact and show offenders a different life style."

Tom Ashmore, who formerly was the Aboriginal Recruitment Officer for Drumheller and Bowden institutions and Pe Sakastew Centre, said that an important change has taken place in the occupational requirements that affects First Nations applicants.

The change concerns the qualification standards for Correctional Officer 1 (CX-01) positions.

"The word is official," Ashmore said Sept. 8, "that in the qualifications, it says GCT2 testing for Correctional Officer I -- First Nations people do not have to pass that written test now. They need to apply, come for an interview, go through the rest of the process, but not the testing."

"And the reason for that is when I was in the position, we had many, many, exceptional First Nations people, who would do a terrific job and be advantageous to the correctional institute, fail that exam. They went away rejected and dejected."

Ashmore said he used to go (prior to recently resuming work as a parole officer at Drumheller) out to some of the nearby First Nations reserves and encourage applicants to apply again in four months. Just a couple of days before Windspeaker spoke with him, however, the requirement for First Nations applicants to write the exam had been dropped.

Ashmore urges all Aboriginal people who have an interest in doing the job but who have failed the written exam to take an advantage of "the window of opportunity" that exists right now.

The difficulty was, in Ashmore's opinion, "a few English words they didn't know the definitions of that could be the difference between five or six points that would get them over that line of a pass or a failure mark."

"I had people with degrees, very bright -- I'm sure they could do the job; they'd worked in policing before -- that could come on this job and do it, but they couldn't pass that exam.

Ashmore was asked about possibilities for advancement for individuals who have difficulty passing the written test. Training on the job would proceed with the help of job shadowing or mentoring, Ashmore says, which is the concept they favor at Bowden, Drumheller and Pe Sakastew at the Hobbema reserve.

He says a correctional officer who is sensitive to cultural differences could sponsor the rookie for a couple of months, and at the same time learn from the new recruit.

"Because we're looking for the type of Aboriginal officer that does practise cultural traditions," Ashmore said, "so I would learn while he is learning from me."

He points out they are also looking for people to present Aboriginal programs. There are also opportunities in administration and clerical services, for vocational instructors and parole officers.

"So when you use the term "advancement," Ashmore concluded, "I think it's phenomenal for First Nations people at the moment."

Ashmore added a caution at the end of the interview, however. He says he's "out of the recruitment business" now, and adds "I'm excited about it; other people may not be." Nevertheless, eight of 15 people who were invited to write the GCT2 testing on Aug. 6 were First Nations people, Ashmore said.

Brad Richmond is the regional recruitment officer, based at Bowden now, who recruits from all sectors, not just from among Aboriginal people.

He took over the recruiting role from Ashmore in June, and confirmed that "an organization in our outfit, Excom, made a determination that 1,000 positions needs to be filled and there is a shortage of Aboriginal applicants at the entry level."

He describes attractions of the job as secure and steady employment that has "a relatively good salary base to it." He describes it as a career that has challenges and accessibility to promotions.

Richmond adds there are some "stumbling blocks" along the way that prevent people from reaching their goals. "But if those goals are properly put in place and properly time-set, they can probably achieve them," he said.

Richmond said "education is a big factor," with regard to getting promoted.

"If people come into the service and want to take the opportunity to further their education and advance through the system, there is a good possibility that that would be met, if that was their goal," he said.

Fullerton, the warden, is more direct: "If you don't have a degree, you're pretty stymied for advancement," he said.

Richmond said Correctional Services Canada's interviewing format since August 1998 addresses five different areas. The first is respect, where the questions identify the values people have regarding respect. There is an area dealing with a desire to learn and change, an area of integrity, an area of results orientation, "which deals with how they commit to the job, how they meet with time frames, what kind of work they do, how efficient they will be," he said. The last area Richmond listed is teamwork, which he described as "how people work with others and how they view themselves."
COPYRIGHT 1999 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Black, Joan
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Words:893
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