The City of Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and attracts so many newcomers that it has grown to six million residents.
Many Torontonians identify as a visible minority, or speak a language other than English, but many of the city’s first responders and frontline workers do not reflect the makeup of the population they serve. Gender even plays a role, as women make up half the people in Toronto, but are sorely underrepresented in the field.
The Motorola Solutions Foundation has founded a new scholarship program at Humber College, called the Motorola Solutions Inclusivity Scholarships for First Responders which will support 12 students from these traditionally under-represented groups in the police, paramedic and pre-service firefighter programs.
“For years, we have been talking about the importance that emergency services personnel represent the communities they serve,” said Amanda Baskwill, associate dean of Allied Health at Humber College.
“This gift from Motorola to provide scholarships for individuals from underrepresented groups to access emergency services education is one way in which we can make progress on this issue.”
A lack of diversity among first responders can have negative consequences. For example, if paramedics are unable to communicate with the people they’re helping, it could lead to the erosion of trust, or become a barrier to effective healthcare.
According to the city of Toronto, 36 per cent of the operations firefighter recruits hired in 2019 self-identified as members of a designated group, including women, Indigenous peoples and visible minority groups.
Statistic Canada reports that in 2018, only 22 per cent of police officers in Canada were women.
The demographic makeup of Humber’s first responder students reflects similar statistics.
People who fall outside of the majority, like women and people who self-identify as visible minorities, can often face significant financial barriers to education and may never even get the chance to apply to post-secondary education programs.
The Motorola Foundation’s gift will help students from these groups overcome financial barriers to education and training. The recipients will contribute diverse perspectives to the classroom. Their visibility in the community may encourage others to pursue a career as a first responder.
“This year, the Foundation’s grants will support programs that help millions of students, teachers, first responders and community members around the globe,” said Karem Perez, executive director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation.
“We are thrilled to partner with organizations like Humber that are actively making a positive difference in their communities.”
As part of Humber’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, the college created a dedicated Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Taskforce, comprised of students, faculty, support staff, administrators, community organizations, industry partners and alumni.
The Taskforce is working to shape the institution’s policies and practices and support the advancement of inclusion throughout Humber – right down to curriculum.
“Diversity, inclusivity and access ensure our programs are the most up-to-date and relevant and produce career-ready practitioners. Our programs produce diverse graduates ready to contribute to the front lines,” said Jason Powell, senior dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences & Wellness.
The Motorola Solutions Foundation’s gift will fund 12 new scholarships.
The Inclusivity Recruitment Scholarship provides six scholarships to students in first responder programs. They will be presented to students who identify as a member of an equity-seeking group and demonstrate financial need. These scholarships are intended to show potential students they are valued and needed, and that there is a space for them in the sector.
The six Motorola Foundations Leadership in Action Scholarships will be presented to students who are part of an equity-seeking group in a first responder program, and also takes into consideration their contributions to the community, classroom or sector through leadership.
The ability and confidence to lead is all-important to the goal of truly diversifying the sector from workers on-the-ground to the highest tier of decision-making.
Humber College provides many other scholarships that aim to promote diversity in leadership and management in addition to the Motorola Solutions Foundation gift.
To learn more about Humber’s scholarship opportunities, visit Humber’s Scholarships & Bursaries page.