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.