By Dane Gibson
There were many high fives being thrown about along with a lot of hugs and a few tears at Vancouver Island University as 32 aboriginal high school students celebrated the successful completion of the 2016 In.Business program.
The group came to the Nanaimo campus from across B.C. and Alberta for a two-day conference that had them sharing business ideas, listening to successful business executives speak and producing 60-second ‘sell videos’ in the hopes of winning a $1,000 scholarship.
In.Business is a national mentorship program for indigenous youth facilitated by the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business studies at Cape Breton University. What started in 2011 as a pilot project saw the 2013 federal government grant the program $5 million in matching dollars so it could be rolled out across Canada.
“This program is about introducing different concepts of business to aboriginal high school students so they have a better idea about where a degree in business can lead them,” said Koren Bear, the program’s Pacific region manager.
Many of the students who are in the program are referred by their teachers, especially in regions where the program is fairly new, but students all across Canada are free to apply online without referrals. Karen Woods is a youth and family worker with Outreach Alternate School, a division of Britannia Secondary in Vancouver. She referred four students to the In.Business program and says after convincing them to go outside of their comfort zone, the students agreed to participate and came back more confident and excited about their futures.
The core of the program is based on pairing student participants with aboriginal business mentors who are working professionals with a background in business. Mentors in the program this year included managers from HSBC and the Government of Alberta, an entrepreneur who owns a T-shirt business and a Dairy Queen franchise, and even a Revenue Canada executive.
“The professionals that worked with them really inspired them. I think it really changed the way they thought about their future and the fact they got to spend time on the VIU campus made them comfortable with the idea of attending university,” said Woods.
To learn more about the program, please go to http://ow.ly/lbK03016yga.
Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU’s communications department.