Mentors Inspire Youth to be Entrepreneurial

Mentoring and Inspiring Entrepreneurial Spirit in Youth

Mentors Inspire Youth to be Entrepreneurial

Business professionals give back to their community by investing their time in young learners.

The Columbia Basin Trust has partnered with JA British Columbia (JABC) to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in local youth and inspire community mentors through Be Entrepreneurial. The program is facilitated by local business people who bring their expertise into the classroom at the invitation of a host teacher.

JABC Mentor Jennifer Barclay steps away from her regular duties as a workshop facilitator for Kootenay Career Development Society to deliver the interactive curriculum on self-employment, financial literacy and work readiness, most recently to Stanley Humphries Secondary students.

“I’d love to see more business people doing this because it gives kids the opportunity to connect with people in their community who are making a difference, building things, and introducing new products and ideas. I want this generation to get excited about where they live and about the opportunities that exist here for them, and this program is a great platform for that,” said Jennifer. “It’s very heartening that there is a program like this that supports kids in rural communities.”

The curriculum, presented in a group setting, draws on collaboration and innovation. Jen appreciated the students’ ability to tap into ideas enthusiastically, without hesitation or creative restriction. Her own passion had her formerly running Fattoria Local Foods, which followed the principles of the 100 Mile Diet and sold humanely raised meat, sourced from farms in the nearby Creston Valley, to the community of Nelson.

“I had a lot to share because my business wasn’t successful in the end – you can learn just as much from that, if not more,” she said. “I didn’t succeed because I didn’t identify my weaknesses: working alone, being organized and the financials. It’s just as important to be able to identify your weaknesses as it is your strengths, so that you can enlist help.”

She was pleased to participate in a program that gives students an understanding of the important role planning plays in starting a business by identifying and examining entrepreneurial concepts, including product, service, competitive advantage and target market.

Coaching students to develop and pitch their own business is guided by the program materials and in-depth training but personalized by the mentor, who shares real life stories in an engaging and memorable way.

Getting real and connecting with youth was refreshing and inspiring for Jen, who has a relaxed disposition she attributes to her varied background. Jen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, which she draws on in her current role with KCDS in Castlegar. There she conducts employment workshops that focus on resume and cover letter building, job searching and interview prep, the Myers Briggs’ personality test, and, her personal favourite, one that tackles the importance of self-esteem.

“Being unemployed can be so hard on people’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Ironically, it’s a time when you’re expected to go out and sell yourself,” she adds. By imparting their knowledge, volunteers like Jen give students the confidence they need to find success in both business and life by challenging students to examine their strengths and consider their futures within their community.

“I have friends from Castlegar and Nelson with kids who graduate and leave for university; they get out of dodge as soon as they can, which I understand and I support,” said Jennifer. “But I also like the idea of inspiring youth to invest in their community.”

Be Entrepreneurial is one of JABC’s free programs, available thanks to generous donations from supporters like the Trust.

JABC is a member of JA Canada and part of JA Worldwide (JA), the world’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating young people about business. Since 1955, British Columbia schools have partnered with JA to inspire and prepare youth to succeed in an ever-changing global economy. In the 2016-17 school year, over 38,000 BC students benefited from JABC programs delivered free of charge by volunteers from local business communities.

To volunteer to deliver a JABC program in your community, visit To request the Be Entrepreneurial Program for your school, check out




Improve Your Bottom Line: Bring in Talent With A BC Tech Co-op Grant

BC Tech Co-op Grants Program

We’re approaching the end of the school year and there will be eager and qualified talent looking for opportunities to grow their skills and experience while making a significant contribution to your small and startup business.

Enter the BC Innovation Council’s BC Tech Co-op Grants Program!

There is nothing like on-the job training to jumpstart a student’s career!  And there’s nothing  like fresh talent and an enthusiastic attitude to help improve a small business’s bottom line. But for small and startup businesses, finding the budget to add staff can be a challenge, and for students, finding on the job training that pays can be rare.

BC Tech Grants provide funding of up to $10,800 per year to help alleviate both the challenges facing small businesses, as well as those facing students ready to transition from academic to professional life.

BCIC’s Director of Programs, Dawn Wood, says since its inception in 2015 there has been a strong demand for co-op students, with numbers trending upward – by the beginning of 2018 the program has seen over a thousand students successfully placed with small businesses in BC.

“It gives [businesses] immediate access to bright, innovative, talented students who are eager to work, eager to learn, and in the long-run for the Province of British Columbia’s tech companies, this means students will be graduating with on-the job training,” Wood said.

Wood added that non-tech companies can also hire through the program– as long as it’s for a tech role within the organization.

“Very often, we find that it’s a non-tech company that’s trying to build a platform or create a new database or automate systems that were analog prior,” she said.

Rob Clifford is the co-founder of Calico Logic, a Vancouver- based software development company that specializes in developing customized Android and iOS applications for a range of clients, from start-ups to enterprise level.

Calico has used the grant the six times, with three students currently working – taking on tasks that existing staff simply don’t have time for.

“It’s helped us grow – we bring them in as part of a team, and task them with anything we would a full-time employee,” Clifford said.

Are you eligible?

Eligible employers must:

  • Be established in BC.
  • Have less than 100 employees on payroll.
  • Be either:
    • Tech companies hiring for any role
    • Non-tech companies, organizations or non-profits hiring for a tech role
      • A tech role is defined as a role primarily related to developing tech or providing tech support.
  • Be hiring a student for a co-op work term. If you’ve hired a student for a co-op work term in the last 5 years, then you must hire a first-time co-op student.

Apply in three easy steps!

There are three steps to apply for a grant:

  1. Define the role and create a job posting.
  2. Contact an accredited co-op department in BC to have the job approved and posted. Check with the co-op department to ensure the program is accredited. Want to post your job through more than one school? Post through the BC Association for Co-operative Education portal (your job post still needs to be approved by each co-op department).
  3. Submit your BC Tech Co-op Grant application.

Click HERE to find out more!