Bright Side of Business: Telesat launches Indigenous Fellowship Program to strengthen its team

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Editor's Note

Editor’s Note: The Bright Side of Business is presented by Star Motors.

Four years ago, Stephen Hampton was pulled into working at Telesat after he heard about its Lightspeed Constellation project, the company’s multibillion-dollar satellite program. 

Today, Hampton is involved in launching what some would argue is an equally important initiative that aims to reduce barriers to education and provide career opportunities in the space industry for members of Canada’s Indigenous community.

Telesat’s Indigenous Fellowship program will provide two students with $5,000 scholarships, $15,000 in stipends, and eight-month paid internships at Telesat headquarters in Ottawa or at one of its facilities across Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Nunavut or Quebec.

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The program is administered through Universities Canada and includes a selection committee and Indigenous-led review panel. The application deadline is March 30.

“I think that this (program) has been a real team effort,” says Hampton, Telesat’s head of public policy. “There was just excitement for this and, frankly, (a need for) growing diversity in our workforce, increasing diversity in STEM.” 

Telesat provides connectivity and has facilities in many Indigenous communities across Canada. Its goal is to hire individuals from within those areas to help run its operations. According to Telesat, less than two per cent of Indigenous people in Canada work in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math. 

As the company expands its reach through programs such as Lightspeed, it is also looking for ways to champion equity in the space sector. For example, in 2021, Telesat launched its first scholarship program for women in STEM. 

“We’re big believers in growing diversity and the strength that comes from that,” Hampton says. 

Thanks to Lightspeed, Telesat is “hiring like crazy and growing quite dramatically,” Hampton adds, including setting up a large technical facility in Gatineau. Lightspeed is supported by the federal government, the governments of Quebec and Ontario, and Invest Ottawa.

For Hampton, it’s important to ensure that equity and inclusion are at the forefront of Telesat’s hiring push. 

“We’re competing against some very large countries and companies in this really competitive space and we really need to put our best foot forward,” he says. “Having the strongest team behind us is really key to that.”

The Lightspeed program is a large network of about 200 low-Earth-orbit satellites that helps extend the reach of the internet and 5G connectivity around the world. 

Originally a Crown corporation with a mandate to connect Canada from coast to coast to coast, Telesat created the world’s first domestic communication satellite.

The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

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