Broadening horizons, realizing possibilities

Students and mentors with Enbridge's Engineering Futures program in Edmonton.

Engineering Futures program helps Enbridge earn another Canada’s Best Diversity Employers honor

It’s a mentorship based on mathematics, on science, on hard numbers.

But there’s more than one way to measure success.

Now in its third year, the Engineering Futures program pairs Aboriginal female high school students with female role models at Enbridge, as part of partnership between Edmonton Catholic Schools and Enbridge’s FEMINEN (FEMales IN ENgineering) employee resource group.

The underlying goal of the Engineering Futures program is to encourage more female high school students to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career pathways.

The value of this mentorship program, however, goes beyond the numbers.

It’s programs like Engineering Futures, which help Enbridge build and maintain a respectful and welcoming workplace, that led to our recent selection to the annual list of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers.

“Really, this program is about broadening the students’ horizons and getting them to think about their own possibilities, about post-secondary education and professional careers,” says Pam Sparklingeyes, manager of the Aboriginal Learning Services program for Edmonton Catholic Schools, who also acts as an Aboriginal liaison for Engineering Futures.

“The engineers share their stories with the students, and that’s inspiring for the girls,” she adds. “Because we all came from somewhere—and with hard work, you can aspire to be whatever you want to be.”

During monthly 90-minute lunch sessions through the school year at Enbridge’s Edmonton offices, employees from FEMINEN spend valuable one-on-one time with their protegées, and also participate in planned activities such as field trips, including an outing to the University of Alberta’s nanotechnology lab, or guest speaker presentations, including one by Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour.

Conversely, the Enbridge mentors have been enriched by all they have learned from the students—their culture, their history, their unique perspectives.

“It’s about planting seeds—encouraging them to keep working hard at school, think about post-secondary education, and feel they have the capability of doing it on their own,” says Tina Uribe, an Enbridge engineer who’s been a mentor with Engineering Futures since its launch.

“It’s a safe place where they know they have a friend who cares about their future,” she adds. “At some point, someone has mentored us along the way, and it’s rewarding for me to do the same.”

In recent weeks, Enbridge was named for the third straight year to the list of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers—an annual index that recognizes employers across the country with exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs.

Along with innovative programs such as Engineering Futures, groups like FEMINEN and Women@Enbridge—which promotes professional development and career advancement of women at Enbridge—demonstrate our commitment to building a dynamic and innovative workforce through a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

The 2016 list of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers was announced on Feb. 23 with a special publication in the Globe and Mail.

Meanwhile, the Engineering Futures program—which, in June 2015, captured the Global Petroleum Show’s community engagement and corporate social responsibility (CSR) award—recently expanded its program by opening up close to 10 spots for junior high students, in addition to the 15 high schoolers who participate each year.

“During our mentoring sessions, you can see the energy in the room. You can feel it,”says Sparklingeyes.

“Last year, the girls met several members of our leadership here in Edmonton,” recalls Anna-Maria LeMaistre, a diversity advisor with Enbridge. “A number of the girls were sitting in our executive boardroom, saying: ‘This is what I want.’ ”