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Federal funds upgrade information systems in the north
The Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) recently won a bid with the federal government that will infuse some 2.5 million into the northern Saskatchewan economy.
Ben Voss, Chief Executive Officer of MLTC Resource Development Inc. said the tribal council applied, under the government's Economic Action Plan Community Adjustment Fund (CAF), for a project related to computer technology and information services, and the proposal was accepted.
"This project is of great benefit to the community. It's really good news for the North. We proposed this initiative, and the government has approved our funding, and we are already initiating the project right now, hiring people and looking for proposals from our northern communities. Those proposals will allow them to upgrade their computer systems and access to the Internet, and other computer related things," he said.
MLTC plans to upgrade current computer systems, networks, websites, intranet sites, and databases, purchase new computers and software, and assist communities in obtaining other advanced technology solutions.
The Community Adjustment Fund is providing $2,260,036 for the project, while MLTC will contribute $253,559.
CAF was designed to assist communities that have been impacted significantly by the economic downturn especially in the natural resources sector. Voss said, "In Meadow Lake's case, we've been quite affected by forestry. The idea is to find some other industries to get going, to create some jobs quickly."
According to Voss, the project will create 18 new jobs from senior managers and team leaders with subject matter expertise in certain areas, to technicians, and training positions for unskilled workers who will learn on the job.
"We are trying to structure it as much as possible as on-the-job-training with some short courses," said Voss. To provide the necessary in-class instruction, MLTC will be working with local training institutes like the Keewatin Career Development Corporation in La Ronge, and regional colleges such as the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT).
According to Voss, under the program, MLTC can take on up to 25 projects in varying northern Saskatchewan communities. To get the communities involved, MLTC is requesting proposals from its nine member First Nations, villages, Métis communities, as well as First Nations who are part of the Prince Albert Grand Council.
"This creates job opportunities for our people that normally wouldn't be there," Voss said. "The jobs are great, and the side benefit that will be great in the long term, is that all these communities in the North are going to get substantial upgrades in their technology and access to the Internet," he added.
"Young people and others who are looking to start businesses or create jobs for themselves will have great technology to do it with," said Voss. "They'll be able to communicate with the rest of the world effectively. If they want to take online training, create a web-based company or do work from a remote location, they'll have the tools to do it with now."
A part of Canada's Economic Action Plan, the Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) is a two-year, $1 billion national program that will provide an economic stimulus by supporting projects that create jobs and maintain employment in one-industry communities, which have been affected by the global recession.
"It's a limited in time project," Voss said, "The funding ends in 2011, but we are hopeful that we'll train a number of people to the skilled level, and afterwards we will have commercial opportunities for them, that will result in more full time jobs for them in the future. Right now we are most interested in having this project roll out. We're probably going to be up and running before the end of January. We'll have some of the positions filled but not all of them," he said.
Voss added that MLTC is actively recruiting MLTC members, but the jobs are also open to the public.
Rob Clarke, Member of Parliament for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, who assisted MLTC with the application process, said, "I think this will have a significant impact for northerners as a whole, and the project will be well received by the 30 northern communities affected. The systems are outdated, and there needs to be an upgrade," he said.
"Anything that can create jobs, for one, and also provide education is instrumental for the development of the North."
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