VARs will be welcome to help IBM Canada deliver its strategy to increase IT opportunities for the aboriginal community in this country.

However, it’s unclear if the company will make an extra effort to get the word out to its partners.

Lead by an announcement last week by president Ed

Kilroy, IBM Canada said it has become the IT patron of a program run by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, reached an agreement with Manitoba to help strengthen participation of aboriginals in the economy, declared it will make an effort to hire aboriginals and said it will assist them in learning about IT.

That educational component will be modeled after its Women In Technology program, which sees IBM staff and IT professionals in Canada and the U.S. lead half-day school workshops encouraging students to keep studying math and science.

IBM partners would be welcome to help in the aboriginal version of that program, said Beth Bell, IBM’s Manitoba industry leader, who heads the women’s program there and was one of the promoters of the new aboriginal strategy.

“”It’s a great opportunity for resellers to be involved,”” she said. “”Having a larger volunteer base increases the number of schools you can take the program to.””

But when asked if IBM took advantage of its connections to its partners and asked for volunteers for the women’s program, she replied “”We haven’t formally done so.””

Most of the VAR volunteers came forward because the program is well-known, she said.

Details of the aboriginal IT school program are still being worked out, she said. A pilot program is set to start next month.

IBM Canada began thinking about an aboriginal strategy when she and others saw “”emerging trends in the Western marketplace,”” said Bell.

A committee including Bell and others from almost every business unit was established, chaired by a vice-president, to come up with a strategy.

“”We want to increase opportunities for aboriginal people and ensure they can have greater participation in the Canadian economy,”” she said.

“”We’re looking to engage more aboriginal business as business partners in the IT sector, we’ll look at hiring aboriginal people and looking to ensure aboriginal company have opportunities to sell to companies like IBM.””

According the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, IBM’s move to become the exclusive IT patron of the its Seven Generations Campaign came after the previous holder of the position, Fujitsu Technology Solutions Canada, was amalgamated with Fujitsu Canada earlier this year and the relationship ended.

Robin Adamson, a spokesman for the council, said aboriginals should be excited by IBM’s decision.

“”This really indicates that one of the world’s leading information technology companies is beginning to focus on the needs of aboriginals in Canada,”” he said.

It will help a community widely spread across the country with complex communications needs develop an interest in IT, he said.

“”We can’t predict where this relationship is going to go, but our hope is that by working with them they’re taking the first step in recognizing this is a unique marketplace, a unique labour pool and that a unique approach can be taken to developing cross-cultural business.””

For a more detailed analysis of the IT needs of aboriginals and they roles they are playing in the industry see the October 15 issue of Computer Dealer News.

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