PLATO Testing

PLATO Testing is working to bridge the Information Technology industry and the Indigenous economy for the benefit of both. PLATO, which stands for Professional Aboriginal Testing Organization Inc., is a software testing company launched by Keith McIntosh that operates across Canada. “In 2015, I was lucky enough to be selected for the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference,” describes McIntosh. The conference coincided with the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, which became a frequent topic of conversation during the two-week gathering. Part of the conference involved a trip to a First Nations community, where McIntosh recalls visiting a school with bad water. “In this little school, the water was so bad you could smell it from outside.” McIntosh came away from the conference knowing he needed to do something about Reconciliation. “So at the time, I’m running a business in Information Technology where there are 190,000 unfilled jobs. I can’t get enough people. I also live in New Brunswick, which has a shrinking population. So all that combined, I saw that there was an opportunity to address all those problems: What if we could train Indigenous youth to work in IT?” So, McIntosh went about building an Indigenous-focused IT training course and creating PLATO Testing. The course includes five months of in-class training followed by a three-month paid internship. Students who complete the training are guaranteed a full-time job offer. This helps PLATO participants enter and thrive in a competitive sector that has lacked Indigenous representation. “No strings attached,” says McIntosh. “Nobody has to take the job, but if they do we’re going to guarantee a living wage and get them in the door.” All that is required of applicants is interest in IT, a desire to learn, a high school diploma or equivalent experience, and that they be of Indigenous descent.” I N D I G E N O M I C S 1 0 T O W A T C H L I S T J U N E 2 0 1 9 | I N D I G E N O M I C S I N S T I T U T E ‘ S T E C H N O L O G Y “Technology goes anywhere, wherever there are people.” McIntosh believes. T E C H N O L O G Y To date, PLATO has given the course 15 times and trained over 150 students. “Those training courses impacted more than 45 communities and pumped about $6 million of salaries into those communities. That’s new money. This is $6 million coming from LinkedIn in Los Angeles or Suncor in Calgary, money that would never have come in otherwise,” says McIntosh. Currently, PLATO has offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Regina, Sault Ste. Marie, Miramichi, and Fredericton. McIntosh says the goal is “to create an Indigenous-owned, one thousand person company in 20 offices in or near Indigenous communities across Canada, not just in the big cities.” According to McIntosh, that is the benefit of the tech economy. “Technology goes anywhere, wherever there are people.” This is essential for place-based economies. “If the work is away from home, then you take the best and brightest to downtown Toronto from a community,” says McIntosh. “That may be good for the person, but it’s bad for the community.” Allowing people to stay in communities is powerful not just for local economies, but for the upcoming generation as well. According to McIntosh, when a person leaves a community, “the kids growing up in that community no longer get to see that person, let alone benefit from interacting with them. So we build opportunity for people to learn and work in front of the next generation.” In that way, technology becomes a solution to “growing a truly sustainable economy.” McIntosh’s advice to others seeking to build the Indigenous economy is to not be afraid to think big. “The first thing I can guarantee you is that you’re not thinking big enough. I don’t care how big you’re thinking; you’re not thinking big enough.” McIntosh believes that corporate Canada and the Canadian government are committed to Reconciliation. “Corporate Canada has a commitment right now to provide opportunities, they just need a path to do it,” he says. “Right now, Indigenous groups have an opportunity to define and build those bridges to let the honest goodwill of Canada come in and help.” As a non-Indigenous ally seeking to build the Indigenous economy, McIntosh himself is a prime example of the help available. “Many in corporate Canada are listening, it’s time to get in there and take advantage of it.”