Entrepreneurship Training at the Post-Secondary Level Boosts Economic Development in the Region

The six public post-secondary institutions in BC’s Southern Interior are helping grow the region’s economy by supporting students and graduates build entrepreneurial and work-readiness skills.

The positive economic impacts of entrepreneurship and work-integrated learning were the focus of the recent PSI roundtable hosted by ETSI-BC.  ETSI-BC began targeting its PSI funding on this important priority as part of its “Developing Human Capital” Strategic Pillar. Through this funding stream, the Trust invests in initiatives that help students and graduates find meaningful jobs in the region, support new venture creation and facilitate connections between industry, students and academia.

Public Post-Secondary Institutions in the BC Southern Interior

College of the Rockies Cranbrook
Selkirk College Castlegar
Okanagan College Kelowna
UBC Okanagan Kelowna
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology Merritt
Thompson Rivers University Kamloops

While each institution tailors its programming to the needs of its community, common themes have emerged on how to best support students on their employment skills and entrepreneurial learning journey. The roundtable provided opportunities for the PSIs to share their FY2023 program offerings funded by ETSI-BC and success stories.

Experiential Learning

The colleges and universities all offer experiential, hands-on training which helps bridge the gap between classroom theory and active participation.  The well-established Entrepreneurship@UBCO program (e@UBCO), includes a Mentor2Market core program that helps participants build and validate their concepts by working with experienced mentors, and the recently added Startup Sprint event which focuses on essential skills for successful entrepreneurs.

Through the nationally acclaimed Enactus entrepreneurial development program, students at Okanagan College are guided and supported by faculty members and business leaders while developing social, economic and environmental projects that meet needs in their communities. They are involved at every stage of a project, from planning through implementation to tracking outcomes, and have the opportunity to present their concepts at regional, national, and international competitions. Many Enactus alumni remain in the community after their education, using their entrepreneurial skills to start and run businesses, serve as community leaders, and inspire others to engage in entrepreneurial pursuits.

At Thompson Rivers University, the model of technology incubators was the inspiration for the Tourism Innovation Lab. Students apply their skills and critical thinking to creating tourism product ideas and turning them into proposals which may lead to entry in the Tourism Venture Acceleration Program.

Two new tourism businesses that began in the Tourism Innovation Lab are up and running in the community: Shred Loops Mountain Biking, and McAbee Fossil Beds tours.

Collaborating to Encourage Youth Entrepreneurship

One of the unique approaches developed with funding from ETSI-BC was the collaboration between College of the Rockies, Selkirk College and KAST (Kootenay Association for Science & Technology. They partnered in 2022 to create the Kootenay Youth Entrepreneurship, a multi-faceted program that aims to introduce entrepreneurial skills to youth across the Kootenay Region, including high school and college level students, and youth outside of educational institutions. This program aims to expose youth aged 16-30 (at no cost) to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and provide skills training and experiences to aid in skills and career development.

The program has three main parts: fundamentals of entrepreneurship, meet-ups and events, and an advanced training series called “Getting from Idea to Launch” which will culminate in a pitch event. The educational institutions will co-lead the first two parts of this program, and KAST will deliver the third part. This ground-breaking program demonstrates how three organizations can achieve more together.

Developing Employability Skills

Whether a student chooses to work for an employer or start their own business, basic employability skills are critical to finding the work they want to pursue. The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) is BC’s Indigenous public post-secondary institution, serving 1,200 learners in remote and rural communities. Their Co-operative Education Preparation course helps students develop pre-employability skills and gain confidence in their ability to pursue their work/career goals with local employers.

Investing in our Region’s Human Capital

“Entrepreneurship is an exciting career option and entrepreneurial skills are highly transferable,” says Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC. “Projects like these help grow our region’s economy by generating more skilled employees and new businesses.”

For more information some of these initiatives and other projects that ETSI-BC has supported, visit the Stories page on the ETSI-BC website.

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