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Selkirk College Inspires Entrepreneurs and Helps Manufacturers Grow

Selkirk College is innovating with two programs that support rural communities in the Columbia Basin-Boundary region, with funding support from the ETSI-BC. One of the programs helps participants of the college’s tech programs to develop employable skills and explore entrepreneurship. The other project provides research students to help local outdoor recreational gear manufacturers solve problems and increase efficiencies.

Classroom Skills to Entrepreneurship

The Classroom Skills to Entrepreneurship: How to Create a Career from your Education program, delivered at the Applied Research and Innovation Centre in Castlegar, targets students in Digital Fabrication and Design, Web Development, Digital Arts, Computer Science, and Geographic Information Systems.

“These students have amazing skill sets,” says Dr. Sarah-Patricia Breen, BC Regional Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development. “They already gain some experience in the business world through their studies, but we wanted to amp this up with an intensive, short course about how to turn their skills into a job.”

The program kicked off in March 2022 with two half-day seminars. Experienced Kootenay entrepreneurs shared what being an entrepreneur means to them, the lessons they’ve learned along the way, and some key tips and pointers. At the end of that first seminar, students were assigned entrepreneurial scenarios to work on.

During the second seminar, students discussed their assignments as a group and identified the tools they would need to implement them. To highlight local resources, the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) also gave a presentation on its programs and services for entrepreneurs.

Since the seminars took place on two consecutive Saturdays, each student received a stipend of $175 towards the cost of daycare and/or time off work that might otherwise prevent them from attending. A student intern was hired to coordinate the seminars, and presenting speakers received an honorarium.

Project Coordinator Jenna Annett, a recent Selkirk graduate in Environmental Planning, says the program quickly filled up to its 15-student capacity. Several registered students said they already had an interest in starting their own businesses after graduating but didn’t know where to start. “Another 14 students, all from business programs, formed a wait list,” notes Jenna. “This suggests there is potential for a second set of entrepreneurship seminars geared to business students.”

Developing Local Talent for the Outdoor Recreation Sector

The second program takes advantage of the resources available through the Selkirk Technology Access Centre (STAC) in Castlegar to support prototype design and the commercialization of products and services.

The Building the Outdoor Recreation Sector project focuses on the region’s burgeoning outdoor gear manufacturing industry. Most of these manufacturers are members of KORE, the Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise Society. This emerging industry group already has over 40 member companies, which collectively design, develop, and make products for skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, climbers and more.

STAC was already working with KORE members on numerous projects through an Interactive Visit Program delivered in collaboration with Tech-Access Canada. Companies participating in this program normally receive 20 hours of access to equipment, facilities, and expertise within STAC for a $200 fee.

The funding from ETSI-BC enabled STAC to help more companies in the KORE network, by covering the cost of materials and supporting two interns to assist the students as they work on real-world business solutions under the supervision of faculty researchers. “Access to talent is essential to creating long-term economic growth and development in our region,” says Breen. “With the support of ETSI-BC on these two new programs, Selkirk College is able to contribute even more to prepare students to graduate with the diverse skills needed in today’s workforce.”

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