An Indigenous career development leader, Trina Maher is the recipient of CERIC’s 2024 Wileman Award for Outstanding Achievement in Career Development. The announcement was made during an awards ceremony at Cannexus, Canada’s Career Development Conference in Ottawa on Jan. 29.  

In honouring Maher, Jennifer Browne, Chair of the Selection Committee, said “her commitment to building bridges with communities, fostering inclusive workplaces, and developing strategies for hiring and retaining talent has left an indelible mark on the landscape of career development in Canada.”  

Maher is a member of Mattagami First Nation, and the President and Chief Creative Spirit of Bridging Concepts, an Indigenous human resources consultancy with the vision to see “Indigenous peoples enjoy meaningful careers in Canadian workplaces.”  

An internationally certified adult educator with over two decades of experience, she has dedicated her career to Indigenous diversity education, community organization capacity building, program and project management, and career and personal leadership development. 

She has advised on national labour-market research studies, provided career coaching facilitator’s training to Indigenous agencies across every province and territory, and is a member of the national council for the development of Canada’s Career Development Practitioner Centre launched in 2023. 

Since 1999, she has played a pivotal role in educating, strategizing, advising and coaching HR teams to create inclusive workplaces. Her work spans from conducting workshops for government agencies to delivering customized training for private companies in the resource, technology, petroleum, mining, service, banking and non-profit sectors. 

From 2002 to 2011, as the National Director, Inclusion Strategies for Indigenous Works, she educated corporate clients about Indigenous history, helping them recruit and retain Indigenous talent. From 2010 to 2018, she delivered 22 workshops to over 500 managers, including those from Correctional Services Canada and various private companies. In 2009, she led the curriculum development and training for the Government of Canada’s Labour Program “Racism Free Workplace Strategy,” impacting over 350 managers from Employment Equity companies. 

Since establishing her consulting business in 2011, she continues to elevate the potential for Indigenous talent in Canada. Her contributions extend to developing and delivering training for organizations such as the Ontario Provincial Police, Halton Police Region, Government of Alberta, Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board and Diabetes Canada. 

Maher was unable to attend Cannexus in-person; instead, her friend Gray Poehnell went on stage to accept it on her behalf. She did, however, share a video acknowledging the honour. 

The award is given in the name of Etta St. John Wileman. In the early 20th century, Wileman was a champion and crusader of career, work and workplace development in Canada. She believed that work was about the individual and in the importance of work to the human soul. Wileman was a strong advocate for a national system of employment offices. She also lobbied for the role of parents and schools in the career development guidance of children.  

Initiated in 2007, the Etta St. John Wileman Award recognizes and celebrates individuals who have made an outstanding impact in enhancing the field of career development. Past recipients have included Marilyn Van Norman, Denis Pelletier, Norman Amundson, Mildred Cahill, Bryan Heibert, Donald Lawson, Michel Turcotte, Roberta Borgen (Neault) and Lynne Bezanson. 

Over the past three years, the Wileman Award Committee has been thinking deeply about the award, taking steps to enhance its inclusivity and accessibility. Consequently, the award’s focus has evolved to outstanding achievement from lifetime achievement. The revised criteria embody a more expansive definition of leadership, encompassing outstanding service and community engagement. The revamped award also considers how nominees have demonstrated a commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.  

Browne remarked during the award ceremony that in 2023, CERIC received multiple nominations, underscoring the substantial depth of exceptionally talented and innovative individuals in the field who are making a significant impact across Canada. She also invited the career community to help identify other mentors, educators, advisors, advocates and role models that should be celebrated, noting to watch for the next call for nominations to open in the spring.