Will fund program aimed at improving First Nations access to procurement, employment
FREDERICTON—A new program funded by the federal government will look for opportunities for aboriginal entrepreneurs in New Brunswick to take advantage of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), Ottawa’s massive federal fleet rebuild.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada announced plans to spend $200,000 to develop a province-specific strategy to boost First Nations access to contract and employment opportunities created by the $35-billion crown jewel of the government’s Economic Action Plan.
“This investment will really strategically place aboriginal communities in New Brunswick to benefit from the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, which is expected to create thousands of high-value jobs,” Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said in an interview.
Funded through its Strategic Partnerships Initiative (SPI), the New Brunswick Aboriginal Shipbuilding Strategy will be developed with the involvement of First Nations communities around the province to ensure they benefit from the NSPS, the massive renewal project that will see more than 30 ships built over the next three decades.
Similar to the Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan, which was designed to ensure businesses in the Maritimes are aware of the direct and indirect opportunities surrounding the NSPS and the processes and requirements for accessing work, the New Brunswick Aboriginal Shipbuilding Strategy will be developed by members of local First Nations communities and tailor-made to the region.
“Aboriginal communities should get the same crack at these possibilities and business opportunities which will be created. As part of the Atlantic Shipbuilding Action Plan aboriginal communities were invited to participate, but now this is more targeted (and) more focused,” Valcourt said of the importance of the strategy’s development.
“What we are trying to do here … is to develop a strategy that will address the opportunities for the aboriginal communities in the province.”
According to Valcourt, the Aboriginal Shipbuilding Strategy will foster job creation and “opportunities for aboriginal business to take advantage of the supply chain,” which he noted will last some 30 years.
“This is about investing a few dollars to help develop a strategy that can bring about good results for these aboriginal entrepreneurs,” he said.
Valcourt said the strategy will try to identify specific sectors where aboriginal entrepreneurs will benefit most under the NSPS.
Capacity, certification and training are all obstacles the strategy is aimed at addressing, according to Valcourt.
“A lot of factors come into play to ensure that a business or an entrepreneur or a person can (fit) in the supply chain,” he said.
The Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI), a partnership between aboriginal communities in New Brunswick and the federal and provincial governments, will also work on the strategy’s development.
A final report is expected in the fall of 2014.