VIU Welcomes Aboriginal High School Students for 'In.Business' Program

Aboriginal high school students from BC and Alberta in the In.Business program gather at VIU during the kick-off conference Nov. 27.

December 11, 2015 - 10:45am

Nanaimo Grade 12 student Daniel Puglas has a vision for his future that includes making films and owning the company that produces them.

While film school is in the John Barsby Secondary School student’s future plans, he also wants to learn as much as he can about business to ensure his success.

That’s why he signed up for the six-month In.Business program along with 46 other Aboriginal high school students from BC and Alberta, who gathered for the program launch Nov. 27-28 at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

In.Business was created by The Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business at Cape Breton University (CBU) in 2011, and has since expanded across Canada through regional partnerships with VIU, University of Winnipeg, Yukon College and Nippising University.

“We were looking for like-minded partners to participate in the national delivery of In.Business. By like-minded, we meant partners who had significant Aboriginal student populations, were keenly committed to Aboriginal education and supported the development or enhancement of Aboriginal business,” said Keith Brown, Vice-President International and Aboriginal Affairs and the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies at CBU.

Koren Bear is the Pacific Regional Manager working for the Chair at VIU.  She is responsible for managing the program and relationship with VIU on behalf of CBU.

“You can go into so many different careers, so many sectors with a business degree,” said Bear. “If we can play a part in helping students to shape their futures, then we’ve been a success.”

Aboriginal students in Grades 10, 11 and 12 selected for the program travelled to Nanaimo for the two-and-a-half day conference to kick off the program, and were matched in small groups with Aboriginal business mentors. The program is fully funded through private donations and equivalent Federal matching funds, providing access for students who may otherwise find cost a barrier to participation.

Bear said she had great feedback from students and mentors who travelled to VIU for the conference. Students enjoyed guest speakers, a game of “Business Jeopardy,” a session on social media for business, a tour of the VIU campus with a chance to view classrooms and meet instructors, and an afternoon tour of four Nanaimo businesses.

“There were lots of great questions from the students -- they found the visits to local businesses really eye-opening,” said Bear, who accompanied the group to Industrial Paint and Plastics, Strong Nation Books, Pro-Elvis Jumpsuits and Top Drawer Graphics.

Norma Wolfchild, one of the In.Business mentors, said she enjoyed the warm welcome at VIU, and looks forward to working with the four students she met during the conference over the next six months.

As the Small Business Development Officer for the Blood Tribe south of Calgary, Wolfchild said she is keen to offer her experience and guidance to the teens she will mentor and work with in the coming months.

“It will be interesting to see at the end of the program if any of the students will pursue business education,” said Wolfchild, adding she plans to use some of her own learnings from the conference to strengthen a youth small business program she’s been running for the Blood Tribe for the past 12 years.

Students in the program will work with their mentors on short business challenges, some involving the use of smart device technology for research.

“One of the challenges involves using social media to start following 10 businesses on social media, and then report what they learned back to the group,” Bear said.

Puglas said he sees the In.Business program as one more avenue to learning all he can about business, in order to support his future career. He heard about In.Business in his high school’s entrepreneurship class, and applied to learn more about business and to grow his network.

“I’ve been learning different things about entrepreneurship, like marketing and budgeting, which I haven’t really done before,” he said. “I’m keen to learn more – this will definitely help to expand my skill set.”

In six months, the group will gather together again for a closing conference to conclude the program, and to share their experiences as the first Pacific Region In.Business participants.



Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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