Thursday, July 15, 2010

We don't lack the ability, we lack the opportunity.

Tapping a fresh northern resource.
Winnipeg construction firm tackles labour shortage with first nations apprenticeship program.

So read the GLOBE AND MAIL article published July 14, 2010 and written by a Patrick White.

Hail to Jamie Saulnier, owner of Connotec, a Manitoba based construction company. Nice to see a company, let alone the government tapping into the vast human resource found in Aboriginal communities: in this case, the remote community of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, about 800 kms north of Winnipeg.

While the government and other companies are urged to import foreign workers from China, Mexico, and other countries, Mr. Saulnier, has realized the need for skilled workers can be found right underneath your nose. Talk about being serious about this venture, he is even learning the Cree language. “Jamie is a breath of fresh air,” said Marcel Moody, a band councilor with the remote First Nation.

While other companies have spent money on importing workers, Mr. Saulnier has not spent one cent on that idea. He says, “I grew up in a small Northern Ontario town where I was surrounded by first nations communities where there were many good men and women who are just wishing for a job. That experience led to him thinking and later took action….”we decided to seek them out.”

Mr. Saulnier went on to set up the First Nations Apprenticeship Program. While other companies and even the government have failed in this type of idea, his program is seeing some excellent results. And it’s not just tokenism. Other companies feel a 2 or 3 percent is a good target for aboriginal participation, Mr. Saulnier is pushing for 50 per cent first nation involvement. Recruits are noticing the difference already. “We hear companies talk big like this all the time, “ said Jack Spence of Nelson House, who recently finished the program. “But it’s just talk. Connotec actually hires and sees you through to a journeyman’s ticket. That’s good.”

Mr. Saulnier has said, …”that’s the future of my company.”

Reminds me too, Nelson Mandela once said, “My people do not lack the ability, they lack the opportunity.”