$5M For Aboriginal Business Studies At CBU
June 11th, 2013
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced $5 million to support aboriginal business studies at Cape Breton University. The funding, which will be provided over five years, will allow for the expansion nationally of some programs offered through the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies at the Shannon School of Business.
The Crawford Chair promotes interest among aboriginal communities in post-secondary business studies.
The funding was included in the federal budget.
“This is one of the areas in which we have a gap in employment in Canada, we need to have more people working and one of the large groups in our society is aboriginal youth that are not participating as much as they are capable of participating in our workforce across Canada,” Flaherty said.
He added he was encouraged by the success the CBU program has had.
“I thought, ‘We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,’ if we provide more funding for this program they can move across the country,” he said.
The chair was established in 2010. It set up a business network for aboriginal youth that has completed its second year, which includes an aboriginal youth business mentorship program. With the expansion, it is expected to reach 270 student participants nationally a year. The program will use social media tools, mentoring, internships and regional and national summits.
Flaherty was last at CBU in October when his aunt, Sister Margaret Harquail, who founded what was to go on to become the CBU business school, was honoured by the university. It was that visit that led to this announcement, as Joe Shannon, who chairs the business school’s board, approached Flaherty to talk about the work being done by the Crawford Chair and the minister asked if they would be interested in taking it national.
A business plan was developed and Shannon later met in Ottawa with Flaherty and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, a Whitney Pier native, to discuss it and he received word just in advance of Flaherty’s budget speech that it would go ahead.
“We know … this thing will work, it makes a huge contribution,” Shannon said. “You brought us $5 million today in the announcement but you did more than that, you created a vehicle that we can take from this university, we can take it right across Canada and we can get kids from ocean to ocean to go through the same kind of a program and encourage them to stay in high school, graduate from high school and go on to university.”
CBU vice-president external Keith Brown noted the pilot uses tools young people are familiar with such as texting, messaging, Facebook and YouTube. Now, they are looking to develop a web-based gaming simulation that large groups with multiple users across the country can access using mobile devices.
“We will have staff at Sydney and in the five regions (of Canada) and partnering with college or universities that either we currently have relationships with or ones that we’ll have new agreements with,” he said.
In the two-year pilot, of the 12 students involved in the program, nine went on to be accepted to university, including seven who will study business.
“Those are unprecedented numbers, if we can come close to replicating across the country what’s happened in the last two years here, we’ll be very successful,” Brown said.
One of those students is Wagmatcook’s Kyle Simon, who in the fall begins business studies at CBU, after winning more than $11,000 in scholarships and awards.
“When I grow up, I want to help market my community and I find joining the business network for aboriginal youth helped me understand more about marketing and the business world itself, it’s all helped me understand how to open up my own business,” Simon said.
Without the program, he said he doesn’t think he would have been able to go into business.
“The program helped me understand about the business world and the people in it, and honestly, I like dressing up,” he said.
Janice Basque is enrolled in CBU’s MLA in community economic development program.
“We all have the same common goal, our goal is for aboriginal students to be successful, whether it’s in businesses, whether it’s in sciences,” she said. “I’m so happy that it’s going nationwide, that other communities are going to have the same opportunity as our kids in Nova Scotia because when we do research we learn from other people.”