Best Diversity Employer

Since joining Cameco in 2001 as a junior radiation technician, John Desjarlais has progressed to a reliability engineer at the Key Lake mill operation.

John Desjarlais Jr. grew up in the small northern Saskatchewan community of Cumberland House where he enjoyed a traditional Métis life that included hunting, trapping and fishing. "It's the kind of place where everyone knows everyone's name," he says. "It's very friendly and family-oriented."

When it came time to choose a career path, Desjarlais had a role model close at hand. His father, John Sr., was a longtime employee of Saskatoon-based Cameco, one of the world's largest uranium producers.

John Sr. worked at Cameco's Key Lake mine, about 800 km northwest of Cumberland House, and was a veteran of the fly-in, fly-out schedule that saw him work seven days at Key Lake, followed by seven days back in his home community. It's a way of life his son has since adopted and continues to enjoy immensely.

John Jr. joined Cameco as a radiation technician in 2001. The following year, he moved with his future wife to Saskatoon where she pursued a nursing career. In 2006, Desjarlais began working toward a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Saskatchewan.

Thanks to Cameco's Career Transition program, Desjarlais remained a salaried employee while pursuing his degree (he graduated in 2011). The company also paid all of his education expenses. He continued to work every summer at the Key Lake operation.

Over the past four years, Desjarlais has worked for Cameco, while also pursuing an MBA at the University of Saskatchewan (he completed that degree this past October). The company provided him with a flexible work schedule to accommodate his course work and he received financial assistance through Northern Career Quest, a training program that Cameco helps support.

During this period, Desjarlais came full circle, moving back to Cumberland House with his wife and young daughter. He is currently a reliability engineer at Key Lake and thrives on the same fly-in, fly-out work schedule his father practised.

"I love it because when I have the seven days off I can be with my family and do the things I enjoy," he says. "And during my seven days on, I'm really able to concentrate on my work."

Cameco runs three mines and two mills in northern Saskatchewan, along with other operations in Ontario, the United States and Kazakhstan. The company places a strong emphasis on recruiting and retaining local talent. Currently, about one-quarter of Cameco's nearly 3,000 Canadian employees are Aboriginal, making the company Canada's number one industrial employer of Aboriginal Peoples.

Cameco is widely recognized for its diverse workforce. In addition to Aboriginals, the company seeks out top-quality recruits from three other key employment diversity groups - members of visible minorities, people with disabilities and women in under-represented roles.

In an industry that is still male-dominated, nearly a quarter of Cameco's Canadian employees are women - a number the company is continuously working to increase. It is also striving to improve diversity at the management level.

Reproduced, in part, with permission from Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016) © 2016 Mediacorp Canada Inc., all rights reserved.