Jelly Academy aims to boost Indigenous representation

More than 40 Indigenous graduates were given free spots in the digital upskilling program to break a historic trend.

B.C.-based digital marketing bootcamp Jelly Academy has announced a first wave of more than 40 Indigenous digital marketing graduates who will be entering the industry this month after completing its program.

This past fall, the Academy donated 45 seats in its digital marketing program as scholarships to Indigenous students and staff from Indigenous organizations, including the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the First Nations Technology Council.

Through the program, students received training in key digital marketing skills such as SEO, social media, PR, Google Analytics, Google Ads and social advertising, while also being encouraged to complete certifications from Facebook, Google and Hootsuite.

Jelly Academy has been offering digital marketing courses to thousands of professionals looking to improve their skills since 2013. Offering seats in the classes for free, according to Darian Kovacs, senior educational administrator at Jelly Academy, is to address a historical imbalance between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous in the digital marketing industry.

According to recent data from the Brookfield Institute, only 2.2% of Indigenous people – 13,000 total, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups – were working in the tech sector.

That’s a problem for digital marketing specifically because the trade is based both on representing a multicultural public and speaking directly to them, which is impossible to do correctly without adequate representation.

“We’ve all known that the industry is pretty white and that’s an issue,” says Kovacs, who is also the founder of digital agency Jelly Marketing. “We’re going to have these 40-plus new, Indigenous voices speaking and working within our industry, and ideally – give it five years – some might even be leading in the industry.”

The academy plans to continue this program in future semesters, with the goal of further improving representation in the industry through its fast-tracking, micro-credentialing program, Kovacs says. Many companies have recognized the importance of improving representation of Indigenous people in the industry over the last year, but some have fallen short of those goals, citing difficulty finding talent interested in working in the industry.

“This is our chance to break a historical trend and say, going forward, that people have no excuse not to consider Indigenous candidates,” he adds.