WIP Moroni Benally and Amber Garrison Duncan (1)

The Navajo Nation Talent Marketplace

A conversation with Moroni Benally, Aspire Ability head of public policy and partnerships, and Amber Garrison Duncan, C-BEN executive vice president

In this episode of Work in Progress, Moroni Benally of Aspire Ability and Amber Garrison Duncan of C-BEN join me to discuss the just-announced workforce initiative, the Navajo Nation Talent Marketplace, which will be the first-ever repository of all jobs available on the Navajo reservation and the skills needed to fill them.

The Navajo Nation covers a lot of territory – nearly 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. There are 253,124 enrolled tribal members with 168,000 individuals (66%) living there on the land.

Nearly 36% of Navajo households live below the federal poverty line, and “unemployment and poverty fuel an ongoing pattern of migration and brain drain that undermines the viability of the Navajo Nation,” according to the news release announcing the new online Talent Marketplace.

The two-year initiative is designed to address longstanding structural barriers to employment and economic growth on the reservation.

“Having an online, publicly available resource linking jobs and education programs will match people to the full range of opportunities across the reservation,” says Moroni Benally, a member of the Navajo Nation and head of public policy and partnerships at Aspire Ability. “It’s a critical step in our nation’s long-term efforts to offer all Navajo – from our 3,500 yearly high school graduates to those who moved away – access to credentials that tie to well paid jobs within the nation.”

Benally says, “A necessary first step for the whole Talent Marketplace is understanding what jobs are out there in the Navajo Nation already. We hear a lot of entrenched tropes about Indian country because no one has put forth the effort to actually identify the jobs.”

“So, up to about a year ago, we were operating under the assumption that the Navajo Nation was only creating about a 100 to 200 jobs a year. But we found 2,100 available vacant jobs in the private sector in the Navajo Nation. There’s another 2,000 that are in the public sector, government jobs,” Benally explains.

Duncan adds, “The focus of the project is to make sure people know that there are jobs at home, to know that there is quality education available on the reservation. A lot of times what we are hearing is that people thought they had to leave the reservation to find education and work.”

This is an important starting point, she says. Knowing what jobs are available on the reservation clarifies for nearby competency-based learning institutions how they might realign their curriculum to serve the community. “The first thing we’re doing is working with the colleges to bring the job board to them, to bring those discreet knowledge, skills, abilities, things that people will have to know and be able to do to perform those jobs.”

Benally says right now there are jobs in health care, construction, and education, but the type of jobs will grow exponentially as broadband is further implemented throughout the Navajo Nation.

Duncan agrees, saying that people will be able to learn the skills needed for remote jobs in cybersecurity and IT. “There are also opportunities to think about Salesforce and Google and AWS, all of those components of ‘now I can live at home and perform those jobs.’ It also opens the door for online learning.”

“We want to be able to provide a space to bring our people back home to really build a Nation and to fulfill that mandate that our elders gave us…of coming home and bringing the goodness that you have,” Benally explains.

You learn more about how Aspire Ability and C-BEN plan to roll out the plan in the podcast. Listen here, or download and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 270: Moroni Benally, Aspire Ability, and Amber Garrison Duncan, C-BEN
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0

Download the transcript here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts