Keith Mcintosh can pinpoint a defining moment when he resolved to use his position and experience in information technology (IT) to help effect change for Indigenous peoples living in Canada.
Selected to participate in the 2015 Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference, Mcintosh was among 250 leaders from various backgrounds and industries to spend 10 days travelling the country learning about life in other parts of Canada.
Visiting an elementary school on the Kahnawake First Nation, located on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River, Mcintosh said he could smell a strong, unpleasant odour coming from the school's drinking water, all while staring across the river at the bustling City of Montreal.
"I don't understand how we can have schools without drinking water and see the skyline of Montreal at the same time," said Mcintosh, the founder, president and CEO of the software-testing firm Professional Quality Assurance (PQA) Testing.
"I think that corporate Canada has a responsibility to open doors and opportunities, but I think, just as a Canadian, it's embarrassing that it happens in our country."
At PQA Testing, a nationwide shortage in IT professionals--to the tune of 190,000 people --means his company regularly sends software-testing work overseas to meet demand, yet there remains an untapped pool of able, underemployed workers at home.
"Canada ships hundreds of thousands of jobs for software to be tested by Indian or Chinese outsourcing groups," Mcintosh said.
"If we can do that, we can ship it to Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie or Moose Factory--pick a spot."
Back home in Fredericton, N.B., Mcintosh set to work creating a PQA offshoot--Professional Aboriginal Testing Organization (PLATO)--which trains and employs Indigenous people in how to test software before it goes to market.
Eligible applicants must be of Indigenous descent and have, at minimum, their high school diploma. But the six-month course is offered free of charge, and once applicants finish the training, they're guaranteed a fulltime job offer with the company.
Mcintosh said roughly 75 per cent of successful applicants complete the course, and about 65 per cent go on to take the fulltime job.
Some will find they don't like the work and move on, while others decide to continue with post-secondary education or go on to expand their careers with other companies.
"We count those as successes, not just the success of the ones that are still working for us," Mcintosh...