While unemployment rates in the Ontario Cree communities is high and often it is difficult to find local job training, the Youth Entrepreneurship Program at the John R. Delaney Youth Centre is offering a new solution.

Starting for the first time in the 11 Ontario Mushkegowuk Cree communities in early July, the centre will offer a three-part program to youth between 16 and 29 that can be done at the centre in Moose Factory or remotely in other communities.

Affectionately known as the YEP I Can program, courses are being offered once a week to accommodate those with young families or who are already in the workforce. This program is being funded by the Trillium Futures Foundation and by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade so it is free of charge for those looking to start a new career or make more money on top of their regular income.

Students within Moose Factory will be able to attend the class offered at the centre using computers available on site or online via webinars or web seminars remotely. Those attending the course online will also have access to the webinars 24/7 provided they have access to a laptop, a headset and an internet connection. Because the program is interactive, those outside of Moose Factory will also be able to ask questions and receive online support through the program trainer.

“It’s hands-on by involving participants in their own businesses right away rather than having them regurgitate facts, theories and jargon from a textbook,” said program trainer and coordinator Brian Hendrick.

The program that Hendrick is using was designed by Tulshi Sen Consulting and has been used by other First Nations across Canada with positive results. The idea behind it is to train those without previous experience to set up a web-based import business to sell the products of their choosing through websites that they develop themselves, learn to market and create business plans for.

Though the full three-part program runs for over one year, the first part runs eight weeks and is geared to giving the students an understanding of the framework of any small business through building their own online business.

Upon completion of the first part, students will be invited to embark on the second part of the program, a 10-week course where they learn to develop a business plan.

“At this point, students will be doing research and planning to either revisit their original business plan idea or further develop an online business that they already have some experience with. After research and planning they will do a proper business plan to be able to access available and future venture start-up money by presenting their business plan,” said Hendrick.

During this second phase, students will also receive support from their trainer and a network of local entrepreneurs and Elders that Hendrick will assemble over the coming months. They will also learn how to build their own websites, develop communication skills, improve their core business skills as well as have the opportunity to learn basic accounting and how to use programs such as Quickbooks and Excel.

The third portion of the program is designed to give ongoing support to those who launch their online business through the program and help the new entrepreneurs maintain these businesses.

Participants in Moose Factory will have the opportunity at this point to move into one of the five offices that will be made available for them through the program to run their business. Once their businesses are off the ground, creating solid revenue for the new entrepreneur, they will be asked to pay a modest percentage of their profits to the centre to help support the facility. Since these businesses are designed to be run remotely, many of the entrepreneurs will not need the office space.

Students are not required to do the entire program however. Those wanting to learn only the online import entrepreneur aspect offered during the first portion can do so, and this is called the Silver Program. Those who go all the way will complete the Gold Program.

“The beauty of this program is that it is going to help young people to believe and have the vision that they can do something. Because of the magic of the internet, they are going to be able to go across the street and across the globe – they will be able to tap into actual global markets without feeling limited,” said Hendrick.

For more info: www.yepican.com