Engaging with stakeholders is a critical part of our business. We want those who have a vested interest in our operations to understand who we are as a company and how we do business. We also want to understand their interests in our projects and hear what they have to say about our company and our industry. These interactions help raise operational standards, address concerns and help us be better at what we do.
Where we can, we train and hire locally and use businesses and services in the areas around our operations. This approach helps us meet our labour and service needs and supports local communities.
Here are some of the ways we engaged with stakeholders throughout the year.
We engage with the Aboriginal communities near our oil sands operations in northern Alberta in six key areas: employment, education, investment, consultation, relationships and business development. We focus on the needs of each location and support organizations that generate positive impacts to that community.
One of the ways we work to build lasting relationships with Aboriginal communities is through long-term agreements. We work very closely with the communities to ensure each agreement meets their unique needs. To date, we have signed long-term agreements with five communities, including an agreement with Mikisew Cree First Nation in 2013.
These agreements provide more certainty for the communities and for Cenovus as our projects develop. They outline a number of aspects of our relationships including consultation and engagement, community investment funding, economic and business development, employment and training, and other issues specific to each community.
In 2013, we worked with the Bigstone Cree Nation to support a heavy equipment operator training program for Bigstone Earthworks Company. We became involved in the initiative for two reasons. It helps boost local skills and provide employment and economic benefits for the Bigstone Cree Nation, and it provides the specialized skills we need for our heavy oil facility at Pelican Lake and our adjacent emerging oil sands project at Grand Rapids.
Twelve people have received training through the program. One month after completing the program, nine of 12 graduates were employed locally. This initiative was recognized with a 2014 Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Responsible Canadian Energy award.