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Venture for Canada is fostering the entrepreneurial mindset of young Canadians

Entrepreneurial grads want to excel at dynamic startups, and startups want energized contributors ready to hit the ground running. CSI member Venture for Canada connects these two groups, giving keen Canadian students and recent grads immersive entrepreneurship training and real-world job experience at innovative startups and small businesses.

We sat down with Juanita Lee-Garcia — Venture for Canada’s Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Social Impact — and talked about what the world looks like if Venture for Canada achieves its goals, and how being part of CSI is making that happen.

What is your biggest hope for Venture for Canada? What does the world look like if those hopes come true?
Right now, our biggest hope is to scale-out and support Canada’s efforts to build back better in a post-COVID-19 economy. VFC’s Founder and CEO wrote an op-ed for our media partners Future of Good, about what graduating into a recession means for the social impact sector and our society. We believe that entrepreneurial mindsets and skills will build thriving and resilient communities, finally and culturally.

If our hopes come true, we’ll have a Canada where young people can equitably realize their entrepreneurial potential to build the most prosperous place in the world. The skills and experience they’ll gain by participating in VFC’s program are essential to their success in the future.

How has being a CSI member impacted your work so far?
CSI is a fantastic workspace and community of social impact-driven folks. We’ve had the opportunity to connect with experts in the non-profit space, held community events across multiple locations and learned so much for CSI’s thought leadership and practices. Bringing the community together around conversations that lead to tangible and actionable change is part of our work. CSI has provided an excellent example of how to do that, from inviting us to host events, lending their staff’s time to volunteering with us, and pointing us to other folks that we should be in touch with to increase our impact.

How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in Venture for Canada?
There are multiple ways that you can get involved! Here are four:

  1. If you’re a business in need of high-achieving talent, check out our employers’ page to see if you are eligible to hire from either of programs.
  2. If you are a high school students or recent graduate, you can get involved as a program participant. Recent grads are eligible for our Fellowship program. High school students are eligible to connect to small or medium-sized businesses in the Prairies and Atlantic Canada.
  3. If you consider yourself a leader in the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, we have a growing list of individuals who speak to our program participants. These opportunities include planned sessions around leadership, financing, management, fundraising, social impact and soft skills.
  4. If you’d like to promote a product or a service to the Venture For Canada network, we have over +1500 young Startup employees or students interested in learning more. We have over 500 employers that we work with every year.

If you are interested in any of these things, you can connect with me at juanita@ventureforcanada.ca.

How is Venture for Canada pivoting and surviving through COVID?
Over the past seven months, we’ve adapted to this a digital-first reality. While our office space at CSI stands strong, we have new systems and protocols for team members who prefer to go into an office. The mental and overall health of staff is super important to us, and we are aware that various folks have differing needs.

We also have physical office spaces in Halifax, Calgary and St. Johns. As a national organization, we already operated across various time-zones and a national team but have implemented fun remote work activities. From a program perspective, we pivoted to an online environment rather than hosting our traditional month-long training camp for the Fellowship program. We are balancing delivering our programs and the efforts it takes to build community online. We are super grateful for our supporters and the actions of the Federal and Provincial governments.

What issues is Venture for Canada working to solve?
Our work solves multiple problems. Venture for Canada’s mission is to foster the entrepreneurial mindset and skills of young Canadians. We are bridging the skills-gap between post-secondary and the workplace. We recently spoke to various stakeholders about our problems and how our primary focus has ancillary benefits. A panel of experts made up of a VFC Fellowship Alumnus, two Fellowship Partner Startup leaders, and an Internship Employer told us what the impact of VFC has been for themselves, their businesses and the startup and innovation ecosystem.

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