There is help available for people who move to Montreal in search of a job and need help in finding one or get more training. First Nations Human Resources Development Services of Montreal (FNHRDS) is available to off-reserve natives to help in their search.

FNHRDS offers employment and training services, including counseling, assistance, information and referrals. The program has been around since 1999, and is available for urban Natives only. Funding is secured directly from the individual’s band.

The program consists of three measures which are:

• Support and Guidance, which has labour market information, professional resources, research and development.

• Training and Development is for professional training, general academic upgrading and on the job training.

• There is also an employability measure with job creation, youth initiatives and self-employment assistance.

The program has been very successful in recent years, having helped 457 clients when it first started in 1999-2000, to more than double (1,072 clients) that number in 2001-2002.

The best way to describe the program comes from one of the employment counselors, Donna Lemay: “At the Urban Strategy office, we have a mission to determine the employment and training needs of the Inuit and First Nations clients living in urban areas. We are also there to take action to meet peoples’ needs and to ensure that urban clients are able to integrate into the labour market.”

Some of the services offered include: a documentation centre, vocational and academic information, counseling, information sessions, job search techniques, action plan development, as well as reference and placement.

Urban Strategies had been made possible back in 1999 following an agreement signed by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec (AFNQL) and Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC). Its goal was to optimize services for all Quebec First Nations clients, and allow for easier access into the workforce.

Some of the jobs into which Aboriginal people have been placed through Human Resources include: communication agent, youth program coordinator, computer technician, journalist, programmer analyst, project manager, and account executive manager.

One of the people who found a job through this initiative was Tim Stringer from Waswanipi. He was able to get the proper training to become a firefighter. Stringer feels that without the funding provided by FNHRDS, he would not have been able to afford the training.

His next move is to go to the Cree communities and help with training and upgrading of skills. He said he is willing to go to any community where he’s needed.

One of the most rewarding parts of the program is the fact that it has acted as a connection to get back home. “I think it’s great, they’re giving a lot of people a chance to give back to the community,” Stringer said. “For myself, I didn’t live in Waswanipi long, but it’s bringing me more in touch with it now.”

Another Cree who benefited from the help she received was Jeanette Rojas. She used the program to upgrade her French speaking skills. Because of the help she received, she says she would recommend it to anyone.

The only problem, Rojas notes, is a lack of funding. This is something Lemay and her colleagues are working on.

“For sure our biggest need is more funds,” Lemay says. “Each year we are getting more clients and if we have more finances, we could put more clients on measures. We are still new and we are trying to improve our services each year.”

Urban Natives who are interested in this program should contact FNHRDS at 514-283-0901.