Exploring Entrepreneurship by building Confidence, Competencies, Capital and Connections

Linking youth with industry partners

Photo - Tealia Carrière is gaining invaluable experience working with Alexander Knecht, President of Knight Manufacturing Inc.

Tealia Carrière is gaining invaluable experience working with Alexander Knecht, President of Knight Manufacturing Inc.

A youth entrepreneurship placement program—known as IION-YEPP and based in North Bay—is producing some impressive results. Developed by Innovation Initiatives Ontario North, commonly referred to as IION, IION-YEPP links high potential youth with industry partners who have a proven capability and expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Launched in 2015 as a two-year pilot program with FedNor support, IION-YEPP offers qualified youth, aged 18 – 29, valuable hands-on experience to help them hone their skills in business management. The 16-week summer program is punctuated with educational and professional development courses offered through group workshops and online training. Business and youth applicants are carefully screened to ensure both parties are committed to the program.

"We often say this program is a win for IION, a win for youth and a win for business," explains Emily Ryan, Entrepreneurial Outreach Program Coordinator. "We looked at other internship programs, identified where the gaps were and developed our program to help those youth and companies whose needs were not being met."

Anne Brûlé, Economic Development Officer for IION, agrees that the matching process is one of the contributing factors to the program's success, but adds follow-up is equally as important.

"We found that by nurturing the relationship with the youth and companies through ongoing contact, we were able to achieve impressive results that enhanced the youth's business development and management skills, and helped companies to expand and grow," states Brûlé.

By the end of the pilot project, 21 companies from the Districts of Muskoka, Parry Sound, Timiskaming and Nipissing, had received funding to hire a youth for the summer. Participants' experiences included developing business plans, conducting workforce retention analysis, undertaking engineering studies and creating marketing plans, among others. These tasks, once completed, enabled the companies to grow and create new employment opportunities. The youths' efforts created 27 jobs, maintained 18 jobs, started four new businesses, as well as maintained or expanded 24 businesses.

Based on these results, IION-YEPP secured additional FedNor funding in 2017 and tapped into other sources to accommodate 15 youth per year and increase rural participation in the program.

Tealia Carrière considers herself fortunate to have been accepted into IION-YEPP in May 2016. Hired as a marketing youth participant at Knight Manufacturing Inc., the Nipissing University business student used her newly-acquired skills to help with the company's trade shows; develop a variety of promotional items such as flyers, T-shirts and business cards; produce a client newsletter; assist with product shipping; and learn about pricing. Once her placement officially wrapped up, she remained on staff, working flexible hours around her university schedule.

Carrière's work experience is helping her fine-tune her own children's entertainment business called Tickled Teals. Specializing in balloon animals and face painting, she works fundraising and corporate events, festivals, birthday parties, etc.

With support from Alexander Knecht, President of Knight Manufacturing Inc., she has established an online presence. In fact, Carrière considers Knecht's role to be that of a mentor.

"He's incredibly supportive in every way, helping me network and promote my business," confides Carrière. "I can bounce ideas off him and he offers to help.  Most of all, he's given me the confidence to pursue my dream."

Fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and helping stem the exodus of youth are two challenges in Northern Ontario that IION-YEPP is tackling head-on. To learn more about FedNor's programs and services, please visit: fednor.gc.ca and follow us on Twitter @FedNor.