OnTarget will launch two new programs at its annual conference this fall and is set to announce the export of some of its existing programs to other parts of Canada. The expansion comes despite a summer of disease, blackout, general economic malaise and the sudden closing of its office when Smart Toronto Technology Alliance bailed on its Liberty Village-area lease leaving tenants temporarily homeless (CNM, Aug. 28/03). OnTarget program director Mark Jones says that on the eve of the already-once-postponed conference, he's proud the organization is on the cusp of expanding its reach across the country, and that it is frequently cited as the only remaining viable project from the ill-fated Ontario Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation's Interactive Digital Media Small Business Growth Fund (IDM) launched three years ago. At this year's E-Literacy: OnTarget conference in Toronto, scheduled for September 19, the organization will launch two new initiatives, one to help people in mid-career transition to work in the new media field and another to help new immigrants to Canada do the same. The programs are being funded partly through Cultural Career Council Ontario, which in turn is supported by Human Resources Development Canada. Jones says the programs have arisen from research showing the need to address these two target labour groups. "This has come about because we could not ignore the studies which are showing that most of the labour growth in Canada will come, not domestically, but from worker re-training and immigration," he tells Canadian NEW MEDIA. "Because our mandate is training and HR development, we had to - just out of a sense of sheer responsibility - move into some of these areas." The initiatives join an impressive roster of programs to date, including a media entrepreneurs training program for students, a matchmaker program to help new entrants to the field find work, and a high school awareness program that attempts to shatter some of the popular perceptions of a new media career. "We're actually quite shocked sometimes by the mythology that still exists with young people in terms of what they think a life in new media looks like. There's still this idea that you go to work in your Bermuda shorts, you sit with your laptop in your hammock and you punch out some code. You've got your dog at your side and you're drinking Coke all day long." What strikes observers about OnTarget's activities since its launch in early 2001 is that the group has essentially followed the same template it set out for itself in the very beginning (CNM, Dec. 14/00). OnTarget has proceeded apace despite a radical change in the economic climate for online and new media initiatives, something Jones says speaks to a strong founding vision, and smart management. Perhaps more impressively, the project, which is currently spending the last of its IDM funding, has now achieved viability. While additional government help from organizations such as Cultural Career Council Ontario is part of the sustainability picture, the annual conference has added to the bottom line. This year's edition will feature topics on best practices in e-learning, discussing where failures have occurred and how to avoid them. For the educational community, an additional focus will be on technology integration in the classroom. Jones expects the number of attendees to be consistent with the 140 or so who came last year. The organization does face challenges, however, particularly in the wake of SMART Toronto's sudden merger with the CATAAlliance and the closing of its Innovation Centre. Several tenants, including OnTarget, have been left to find new space when their SMART Toronto location was closed. For OnTarget, the situation has been exacerbated by the fact that SMART was a part owner of the initiative. SMART Toronto was one of three partners in OnTarget, along with the Interactive Multimedia Arts & Technologies Association (IMAT) and the Multimediator Strategy Group (MMSG). Since SMART Toronto's acquisition, Jones is uncertain what will happen to that piece of the ownership pie. "My hunch is that there probably will not be the same relationship with CATA as we had with SMART Toronto. That is not to say that we're not open to talking about a relationship with CATA. But, the impetus for that discussion, for us, needs to come out of recognizing our programs to date. That's always what we come back to. The programs, the impact that we have. And, if they see a value in that, and are interested in partnering with us, then we're more than interested in talking. We won't turn down any partnerships." Jones notes that the loss of the space is only a temporary setback. "It doesn't affect the stability of the organization, and it doesn't affect, ultimately, the rollout of these new programs, as well as the discussions with other jurisdictions." He says the main loss has been of the technical and administrative support but that OnTarget can continue as a virtual organization - as a second-best option to having physical space - until it secures new office facilities, likely within the next couple of weeks. As for the launch of its programs in other municipalities across the country - a move that would add to OnTarget's top line - Jones won't disclose which ones they are. He will only say that three appear set to be signed, with a few others "bubbling away."