The Ambassadeur project is a pilot project initiated by the Saguenary-Lac St-Jean regional office of Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC)1. The problems of employment, the circulation of information, and communities assuming responsibility for their economic development as well as training are the main focus of this endeavour.
Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean is a region with one of the highest unemployment rates in Quebec (Saguenay-Lac St-Jean HRDC, 1999a). Moreover, the Jonquière-Chicoutimi twin-cities area is often the urban centre with the highest unemployment rate in the country. The region is somewhat dependent on natural resources such as forestry and agriculture. Manufacturing accounts for 21% of jobs and is primarily engaged in processing wood and aluminum — industries subject to the vagaries of world markets (Saguenay-Lac St-Jean HRDC, 1999a). There are numerous seasonal jobs and skilled positions that remain unfilled. There is also a school dropout problem: "Around here unemployment is a family tradition," as some might say. Similarly, there is a decline in the employment opportunities for newcomers, especially unskilled youth, in the labour market. This leads to an exodus of youth and the best trained workers.
Yet Saguenay-Lac St-Jean has interesting information about the labour market in the region, its needs and training. In this regard, considerable research and studies have been done jointly by HRDC and local organizations (e.g., the agreement with the region's industrial commissioners for the knowledge and updating of employers in the territory; agreement with the Chicoutimi, Jonquière et La Baie Chambers of Commerce, school boards and post-secondary institutions in the Saguenay, and local employment centres (CLEs), on workforce erosion in the Saguenay). The problem does not appear to be related to the availability of information because there is a great deal of information about the labour market and it is published on the Internet. Yet it is failing to reach the target clienteles, especially young people choosing a career and job-seekers.
At the same time, the federal government is putting increasing emphasis on the Internet both as a means of providing information about its products and services, and as a means of communicating with citizens. The Ambassadeur project derives its foundation from the standpoint of strategic orientation and particularly federal initiatives in the realm of information technology.