October 20, 2002


Over the last two years a groundbreaking initiative has taken place in Timmins and area.  Workforce 2000:  Building Economic and Employment Partnerships was launched as a partnership project between Mamo Wichi Hetiwin Employment and Training and several community based agencies and businesses including The Venture Centre/Le Centre de développement (CFDC), Mamo-Nuskometiwin, Timmins Native Friendship Centre, Wabun Tribal Council, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, Toronto School of Business, Northern College of Applied Arts & Technology, Timmins Economic Development Corporation, Falconbridge, Tembec, and Northern Telephone.

Project Need:
One of the fastest growing segments of the population in Canada is the Aboriginal population.  Its growth rate is over three times that of the non-Aboriginal population.  These statistics are of immediate concern in northeastern Ontario because of the many First Nations communities located here, as well as the large urban Aboriginal population.  In Timmins for instance, it is estimated that the Aboriginal population constitutes 10 % of the city’s population.

The steering committee members listed above joined forces to address concerns related to the growing Aboriginal population and the apparent inequities in the workforce with regard to Aboriginal employment.  Aboriginal graduates were not getting work and the unemployment rate was generally twice as high for Aboriginal workers as for non-Aboriginal workers.

The Workforce 2000 Partners became dedicated to facilitating the process of:
1.  Raising awareness in the regional business sector about the benefits of creating economic and employment partnerships with Aboriginal peoples 
2.  Raising awareness of the cultural differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in regards to workplace communications, job-seeking skills, and to provide an opportunity for employment candidates to network with potential employers

Major Activities:

Workforce 2000 organized a conference to explore Aboriginal/non Aboriginal partnerships.  Held in Timmins, and attended by 200 local and regional participants, the Workforce 2000 Conference was the first of its kind in Northern Ontario and launched a series of activities, including workshops and training sessions designed to promote greater awareness and understanding of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal partnership potential.

Response to the 2000 Conference was so positive that a second Conference was launched in April 2001 and, again, over 200 delegates from the region and across the province dedicated three days to understanding the dynamics of partnership and the tools required to bring them about.

Employers were provided with Aboriginal history and cultural understanding designed to increase their awareness of cultural issues that may be a barrier to hiring Aboriginal workers.  Aboriginal participants learned how to access the mainstream workforce through workshops detailing expectations of a mainstream business.  On a larger scale, community leaders learned about successful corporate partnerships between industry and First Nations communities, and how their own communities or industries may go about forging partnerships that will be mutually beneficial.

Some Partnership Successes:

In addition to launching the two major conferences, many smaller scale partnership building events have been organized by Workforce 2000 - 

1.  Two all-day workshops designed to give business owners better insight into the Aboriginal culture and workforce (40 businesses in attendance)
2.  Aboriginal Awareness Week declared by mayor and council (April 2-5 2001/April 8-12, 2002)
3.  Workshop for business owners and general public with guest speaker Gordon Peters, Director of Centre for Indigenous Sovereignty, former Vice Chief of Ontario Assembly of First Nations (50 participants)
4.  Education sessions for Aboriginal graduates to understand the expectations of the “mainstream workforce”.
5.  Aboriginal representative named to the Timmins Chamber of Commerce 2001
6.  Timmins Chamber Rep on the Northeastern POW WOW Committee
7.  Partnership reception for Nishnawbe Aski Nation Chiefs Meeting March 20, 2002
8.  Trade discussions open between Timmins Chamber of Commerce and the James Bay Coastal Communities
9.  Northwest Development Network now exploring the potential of launching a similar initiative in their region

Support for the initiative, and the partnership ideals it promotes has been widespread.  Private sector sponsorship from companies like Falconbridge, Tembec, Northern Telephone, Weyerhauser, Union Gas, Toronto School of Business, Trans Canada as well as many government ministries and the City of Timmins, speak to the wider community’s commitment to the goals of Workforce.  Already, relations have taken a positive turn between the municipal government and the Aboriginal sector.

In addition to Timmins’ Mayor Jamie Lim declaring Aboriginal Awareness Week two years running, the city has become active planning partner on the Workforce 2000 initiative and communication has opened up between Aboriginal organizations in town and the city council.  Recently, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network did three days of shooting for their regular program "Aboriginal Voices", which will feature two half hour programs describing the Workforce 2000 initiative.


Workforce 2000 is a movement within our northeastern community.  The private/public sector group that drives the movement is working toward better opportunities for Aboriginal workers and stronger relationships between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community.

The Workforce 2000 Steering Committee is dedicated to sustaining the partnerships achieved through its initiative.  Obviously, the kind of grass roots development in the area of Aboriginal/Non-Aboriginal partnership and cross cultural understanding is not achieved within the time frame of a couple of years.  This is an ongoing community development process.  It is a movement that will bring about a paradigm shift and its success requires exhaustive commitment on the part of communities, organizations and individuals.

The Workforce 2000 Committee is dedicated to bringing about the attitudinal change that will result in better employment opportunities for the Aboriginal workforce, and stronger partnerships between our two communities.

The partnership ideals and goals of the group are exemplary and the initiative we are promoting is timely.  It is a unique movement and one that I believe all our northern communities, particularly our economic sectors and Aboriginal Partners stand to benefit from.  Indeed, the issues we are addressing are ones that the north as a whole faces.  Working together to meet our challenges we will progress and we will prosper.

Why a CFDC Success Story?:

The Venture Centre/Le Centre de développement is a founding partner of Workforce 2000.  We have invested financially in both major conferences and staff have been an integral part of the steering committee for three years and sits on several sub-committees including promotions and finance.  We were instrumental in bringing FedNor to the table as a major funding partner and have worked to bring other partners to the planning table as well.  A presentation made at the CFDC Northeast Development Network Conference in October 2001 encouraged the Northwest Development Network to consider launching a parallel initiative in their region.