New programs target youth entrepreneurship

Five new programs launched by the province to foster entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for Ontario’s youth shouldn’t be viewed as tools to help students find a job, said Western President Amit Chakma.

“These are tools to help our students realize their creative potential and create wealth for our province and beyond,” Chakma said April 24 as the province announced five new programs to support youth entrepreneurship under its Youth Jobs Strategy.

Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, visited Western to announce a $51-million investment on behalf of the province, creating new programs to help young people start companies and create jobs by providing business skills and capital as well as opportunities to gain experience and expertise through research and development internships.

“Ontario has some of the best-educated and most hard-working and creative people around the world. Our job, as a government, is to help harness these innovative ideas and turn them into rewarding careers,” Moridi said as he announced the new programs.

The newly launched projects include:

  • On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities, worth $5 million;
  • Campus Linked Accelerators, to help students develop entrepreneurial skills and transfer academic knowledge to the marketplace, worth $20 million;
  • SmartStart Seed Fund, to help young entrepreneurs build technology companies, worth $9 million;
  • Youth Business Acceleration Program, to provide young entrepreneurs skills to grow successful technology businesses, worth $7 million; and
  • Talent Edge, to provide a bridge between academia and the workforce by offering opportunities for postsecondary students, recent graduates and PhD fellows to collaborate on research-and-development projects between academic institutions and industry, worth $10 million.

Ontario Centres of Excellence has partnered with the province and postsecondary institutions to help deliver these initiatives.

“In this competitive and complex economy, it can be very difficult to match talent with the right job, and for some young people, it’s difficult to get experience they need to get the foot into the door,” Moridi continued.

These programs will address that issue.

“We know young people in Ontario have brilliant ideas and a fantastic education. They have so much to contribute and all they need is the opportunity to do that,” said Deb Matthews, member of provincial parliament for London North Centre.

These five new programs, and the relationships they will build, will revitalize the regional and national economy, Chakma added.

While all young entrepreneurs across Ontario, including some not enrolled in postsecondary institutions, can benefit from these programs, On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities, along with Campus Linked Accelerators and Talent Edge, will directly apply to Western students.

As Western partners with Fanshawe College in these programs, leveraging the skills and knowledge of London’s students in the economy, everyone will benefit.

“Together, we are well positioned to develop the entrepreneurial skills of Western’s students and future business leaders. The Campus Linked Accelerator partnership with the province of Ontario will give students the tools and confidence to think and work creatively, translating their ideas into action that will invigorate our regional and provincial economy,” Chakma continued.

These relationships are critical to ensure young people get the training and skills they need to create quality jobs and to succeed.

“With the partnership with Western and Fanshawe, we are going to light this province on fire,” added Fanshawe President Peter Devlin, BA’82 (Economics).

“No one organization or company can address the needs of everybody; it takes strategic partnerships and programs to provide tools, training, essential skills and resources young people need to keep Ontario a leader in the knowledge economy,” said Tom Corr, president and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence.

This story originally appeared in the May 8, 2014 edition of Western News.