2019 IW Winners

Entrepreneur of the Year - Fort William First Nation

Melissa Hardy-Giles

Melissa Hardy-Giles

Melissa Hardy-Giles believes the secret to her company’s success is placing the job seeker’s interests above their own.

Do right by the individual, and larger and greater success will eventually come. “It’s about making sure that we’re always focused on what that person needs and their gifts,” she said, “but always be thinking with our hearts.”

It was that core business principle that spurred Hardy- Giles to leave a secure job in academia to strike out with her husband, Paul Giles, and start Hardy Giles Consulting in 2009.

“We’ve turned down (industry) partnerships – and some big ones – that didn’t align with our vision and values. We’re very passionate about that in aligning with our mission, vision and goals.

The aim of the Fort William First Nation and Thunder Bay-based company remains to increase Indigenous participation in the workforce by matching job seekers’ natural abilities with industry needs.

Now under the banner of Origin Recruitment, their 13-employee company combines hands-on technology with more holistic practices to recruit, screen and deploy connect job seekers with trades and other occupations in a number of industries.

While working in a university job, Hardy-Giles had been frustrated by the red tape associated with promoting Indigenous education.

As she discovered, not everyone is cut out for an academic-based pathway to employment.

“Indigenous people have to be supported in different ways because their culture is different. Things that are natural to people in urban areas are totally foreign to people who are flown in from miles away.”

Through Origin’s job-readiness programs, mobile heavy equipment simulators, and new virtual reality technology, their modus operandi has been to take the guesswork out of the trainee selection process by matching job seekers to careers.

In the beginning, as Hardy Giles Consulting, the couple assisted First Nation communities and organizations with project management, strategic planning, and human resources.

Hardy-Giles is particularly adept with life skills training, self-esteem, goal-setting, and team-building exercises. Those early days planted the seed to acquire their first of four Caterpillar simulators in 2014, a calculated gamble on their part.

Not only do the simulators reduce liability to train, they provide data-driven feedback – such as time on task, fuel-burn rate and safety awareness – to determine if an individual has the aptitude to thrive in an operator’s position.

Housed inside a trailer, the mobile classroom has been hauled into dozens of First Nation communities.

Thousands of people have been screened through their Origin First-Peoples-First program and hundreds have been placed into various positions.

Hardy-Giles finds particularly satisfaction that women, with no equipment operator experience, have landed goodpaying jobs.

“There are some people who never thought they would like it and you can’t get them off the machine.”

Their latest foray into virtual reality, through their ImmersiveLink system, has helped them secure and broaden their industry partnerships across Canada in a matter of months.

With easily portable headsets, they’ve built a diverse library of immersive worksite experiences introducing job seekers to a day-in-the-life of various trades and occupations in a number of industries.

All of this system combined is helping Origin play a role in reconciliation across this country.

Combined with the launch of a National Advisory Council of respected Indigenous leaders last November, Hardy-Giles said the evolution of Origin has far succeeded her expectations.

“We have people with great reputations, who stand with our morals and wanted to run with us as far as we can. We’re really humbled and super excited.”