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Unique employment program coming soon

Kaylia Marquis was hired late last year by Tewatohnhi’sáktha as the coordinator for their new Achieving Concrete Essentials (ACE) Program. (Courtesy Kaylia Marquis)

A brand new program at Tewatohnhi’sáktha hopes to bridge the gap between employment training and business support services.

The three-year program, called Achieving Concrete Essentials (ACE), is expected to start next month, and is geared towards underemployed or unemployed youth.

“Tewatohnhi’sáktha is hoping to encourage people in our community to become the next generation of employers. And, even if that’s not the person’s ultimate goal, it will give them a great background in how businesses are planned, and operated, and hopefully allow them to access steady employment with other employers,” said program coordinator Kaylia Marquis.

Marquis was hired late last year to coordinate the program.

“I’ve started a bunch of businesses before, and this position is very similar because it hasn’t been done before,” she said.

“Tewatohnhi’sáktha has a strong history of doing employment programs, they have a strong history of supporting businesses, but not the way that this program is doing it in terms of matching them together,” she said.

During the three-year program, six sessions will take place offering a group of young adults a six-month training with basic skills that are needed in running a business, from budgeting to advertising, customer service, and business planning.

The participants will hear from a slew of speakers and site visits to see how different businesses operate in the community.

“Instead of just saying, ‘we’re going to give you some skills to go get a job,’ we’re going to give you some skills to make your own job, if that’s what you’re interested in, but you’ll also have the skills you need to apply somewhere else,” said Marquis.

“We’re looking to make sure that the people who come in know who to talk to. You may not know that Barbara McComber handles business services at Tewatohnhi’saktha, that there’s socio-economic funds that’s coming out through council this year; you may not know how financing works through the bank,” she said.

“We want to make sure the people who come in know all of these things so that they’re more comfortable knocking on a door for help to develop a business plan and access funding, because sometimes that’s a major barrier.”

The first two months will be at the office learning and practicing, while the last four months will be running a social enterprise in the community.

“A social enterprise is a business that is judged as being successful not only because it is financially profitable or sustainable, but also because it is beneficial to some aspect of society, people, or the environment,” said Marquis.

“Tewatohnhi’sáktha had identified social enterprises as businesses that could really have a positive impact on the community, and wanted to encourage entrepreneurs to pursue them.

“We have a lot of youth that are not employed in long-term positions, or at all. So, it seems like a good match,” she said.

When the program ends, Tewatohnhi’sáktha will evaluate if the businesses can survive, and see how individuals may be able to access funding, or apply for jobs elsewhere.

The program is expected to start in mid-February, with information on how to apply available as early as next week.

“We’re looking for people who are looking for a change and would be open to learning about new things. When you look at being an entrepreneur, you’re not always interested and good at every aspect, but if you can say that you don’t love accounting but know what do, that’s one step further,” said Marquis.

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