The biggest challenge facing Manitoba over the next 15 years is finding a way to get more of its aboriginal youth into the workforce, a Winnipeg business conference was told today.
About 180 business and government officials were told aboriginals are the fastest growing group within the provincial population, yet there remains a huge gap between the labour force participation rates for aboriginal versus non-aboriginal Manitobans.
"Our unique challenge is how do we take advantage of the opportunity the young aboriginal population presents for us," said Richardson Financial Group president and CEO Sandy Riley.
Riley said one of the first steps that needs to happen is for the province’s aboriginal leadership to formulate a clear vision of what it thinks needs to be done to address the problem.
And former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin maintained the most pressing need is to convince the federal government to substantially boost its funding for on-reserve schools.
Martin said the current level of education funding is grossly inadequate, "and I think we’re going to have to get the business community behind it (the lobbying effort)," he added.
Martin and Riley were among more than two dozen business and government officials slated to participate in a series of panel discussions on a wide range of topics pertaining to Manitoba’s future, including aboriginal issues, education, taxes and the bottom line, business and economic development, and energy and the environment.
The one-day Manitoba: Past, Present & Future conference is organized by the Business Council of Manitoba.