Saturday, October 25, 2014

Entrepreneurship program seeking community support

Tours, job shadowing, meet-and-greets, and presentations.
That’s the kind of entrepreneurship class that will be offered at Fort Frances High School this fall when the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program starts up.

But in order to offer such a unique experience to his students, teacher Chris Hill is trying to get the community involved.
“We want a lot of help from community groups, so whether that’s people coming to speak about local businesses, people who have worked their way up in business, or going out to see businesses,” he explained.
“The big push with this is a lot of field trips and a lot of interaction with community members.”
Hill said he’s tried to do is reach out to community groups by e-mailing them and giving them a fax sheet showing what the program is all about.
“My hope is that at any point I can get people to come in and speak to the class, do a meet-and-greet, or do a collection of things,” he remarked.
But Hill stressed he’s not asking that they all give a presentation.
“I’m not looking for everyone to come in and speak to the whole class,” he noted. “But if people are up to it, it would be great to have six people come in one day to share their different experiences.
He added local business owners also might welcome students to their workplace for a tour, allow them to job shadow, or assist with information or supplies that might be helpful.
Hill said the entrepreneurship class is not new but it has been refocused “to help aboriginal youth develop the attitudes and skills necessary to achieve success in secondary school, in the workplace, during post-secondary education or training, and in daily life.”
“The program invites students to develop entrepreneurial opportunities that can lead to business ownership,” he explained.
“They gain an introduction to business that will help them prepare for the working world regardless of their choice of career.”
Hill indicated the two-credit program “focuses on ways in which entrepreneurs recognize opportunities, generate ideas, and organize resources to plan successful ventures that enable them to achieve their goals.”
“Students create business plans for their own ventures,” he noted.
“Through hands-on experiences, they will have opportunities to develop the values, characteristics, and skills often associated with successful entrepreneurs.”
Hill said the textbook for the program was written by First Nations’ educators and includes the “grandfather teachings.”
As well, a lot of the case studies are about First Nations’ people who have started businesses.
The Grade 11 component of the course is “Intro to Entrepreneurship,” where students learn what a business plan is and complete one of their own.
Then they can take the Grade 12 course, which focuses on e-commerce.
“I would like to look at our community and see all the different businesses—a wide range of businesses, one that’s been around for 50 years, one that recently opened—and maybe have a chance to meet them,” Hill said.
He added one of the requirements of the program is for students to spend a day at a bank.
“They have to go and learn the interactions of the bank,” he said. “All those little things that kind of get forgotten about.
“But if you don’t get those skills in high school, you are probably not going to go investigate yourself,” Hill stressed.
The AYEP is part of the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI), and will be funded by the federal government.
“[Paul Martin] has been doing a lot of work with First Nations’ communities and groups, and trying to improve graduation rates,” Hill said.
“That’s been his mandate.
“And with the program, it’s set up so you learn about business . . . and it tries to open up a wide range of possibilities.
“I’m hoping with this program, I can kind of sell Fort Frances,” added Hill, admitting he was surprised, looking at the local Chamber of Commerce’s website, just how many businesses there are in the community.
“I’m hoping with that I can reach some students and get them thinking that maybe they can open a business of their own,” he reasoned.
Hill noted students already are signing up for the course, which is set to run this September.
Any community members interested in getting involved in the program can contact Hill at Fort High (274-7747).

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