Venture for Canada is playing a critical role in developing the entrepreneurial generation that Canada needs.
While 83% of educators feel that youth are ready for work, only 34% of employers and 44% of youth agree. There’s an increasing disconnect between the skills young people have and the skills they need. To navigate work post-COVID-19 and in the future, young people need to master soft skills and entrepreneurial skills — like creativity, adaptability, and nimbleness. These skills are critical for future generations to succeed in the knowledge and digital economy.
The innovation and startup ecosystem must collaborate with government, post-secondary institutions, and the private sector to build a thriving, youth-led Canada. Post-secondary institutions, the public sector, and the private sector are all integral players in building a more workforce-ready society.
Venture for Canada (VFC) is a connector that brings these sectors together. The charity fosters the entrepreneurial skills today’s students and graduates need to play a constructive role in growing tomorrow’s rapidly-evolving economy. Its programs give participants a line on jobs in burgeoning startups and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), providing them with customized training, coaching, and peer networking. VFC also supports the SMEs who employ its program participants, post-secondaries, and industry organizations to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Cross-sector collaboration, support, and partnerships are essential for Canada’s thriving communities.
VFC is empowering youth to pursue entrepreneurial careers and to create positive social, economic, and environmental impact.
Why are entrepreneurial and soft skills fundamental to the future of work?
Daniela Pico: We all know that the future of work is changing but none of us can predict what that future will look like. Our future talent needs to have adaptability, resilience, and the ability to innovate that is synonymous with entrepreneurialism. Soft skills like critical thinking, creativity, and communication are transferable which is what makes them so valuable. The average shelf life of a hard skill in today’s economy is five years and it will be even less in the future — but people who can problem solve, communicate well, and learn will always be in demand. As we move forward, we need talent that has the skills to reinvent the future of work, not to simply serve a function within it.
Samuel Daviau: Entrepreneurship is a pivotal bridge in our economy. It connects innovation to monetization. It allows for ideas and research to be developed into products and services. It’s a less rigorous, more experimental type of innovation than formal R&D and it’s more agile than corporate capitalism. An economy needs people who are trained in entrepreneurship to build this bridge, it’s pivotal for the success of the economy as a whole.
Aydin Mirzaee: The world is rapidly changing and what will determine the success of the Canadian economy is how well the next generation of talent will adapt to the accelerating rate of change, and even thrive. There are new opportunities being created constantly and an entrepreneurial mindset will allow our companies to be competitive on a global playing field. A lot of these entrepreneurial skills are hard skills but a good portion of them are soft skills — and you really need to be good at both in order to have a fighting chance of building an extraordinary success.
Carolann Harding: If we define being “entrepreneurial” as the willingness to take a risk, explore, fail, learn, create, and be persistent, then we can understand why soft skills are important to a growing organization. Without these skills and the willingness to show up each day with a “beginner’s mind,” then we can’t begin to learn, grow, and develop. Soft skills like these combined with the ability to communicate, think, and analyze are necessary for a startup to flourish.
How does VFC empower youth to pursue their careers and create a positive impact?
Samuel Daviau: VFC empowers university students and alumni to learn entrepreneurial skills. These include the ability to satisfice and be scrappy, to have grit, to be able to evolve and pivot without worrying about sunk costs, and to explore a multitude of strategies. These aren’t necessarily skills learned in classes or corporate internships — they’re learned through experiential learning and thoughtful sharing with like-minded peers.
Why is it important for the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem to collaborate with both governments and private partners?
Aydin Mirzaee: The term “startup ecosystem” is very apt because it truly captures the fact that this ecosystem is a complex system with many players, all of whom contribute to the creation and nurturing of startups that will produce jobs for the Canadian economy. Startups can’t do this all on their own — it’s really important to have the help of all players from the ecosystem including government, non-profits, and more established larger companies.
Carolann Harding: A successful startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem is built on collaboration and partnership from all levels and a variety of stakeholders. A clear understanding on how each can support each other is invaluable to the growth and success of the venture. Government and private industry have unique roles to play and when working together it creates the environment for startups to be innovative and fearless. Collaboration brings support, access to capital, and mentors.
Daniela Pico: The startup ecosystem is where a lot of Canadian innovation happens. Startups — especially social ventures — are often solving some of the biggest challenges our society faces. However, they lack capital and sometimes the connections to make change effectively. Governments and private partners can outsource innovation and take advantage of the agility of this sector while funding and mentoring younger startups. This strengthens the economy and ensures that as a country our public-private partnerships are strong, and we allow room for agile innovation.
Why does entrepreneurial education need a social progression component?
Carolann Harding: Entrepreneurial education is fundamental to the economy. When entrepreneurs are brainstorming ideas for new businesses, those who take social progression into account are more likely to ultimately solve an everyday problem. Education can help aspiring entrepreneurs approach problems through the lens of enabling everyone to reach their full potential and increasing their quality of life.
What value does VFC bring to startups?
Daniela Pico: VFC prepares youth with the resilience they need to join a startup environment. Startups are ambiguous and unpredictable — students who learn from a textbook are often surprised that in startups, even the people leading don’t have all the answers. VFC serves as a great bridge for exposing candidates to the problems that startups face and making them more comfortable problem solving independently.
Aydin Mirzaee: It takes a very special type of person to thrive at a startup and, believe it or not, the pool of candidates that fit into this category isn’t very big, especially for early-stage startups. VFC identifies the top talent — those who already have a startup mindset. When we hire VFC Fellows, we know that all of the candidates are startup-ready and that makes a huge difference. All we have to do from that point is interview them for specific job skill-sets and not for their ability to thrive at a startup. I wish we’d known about VFC at my last company, which was acquired by SurveyMonkey — but we’re definitely making great use of it where I am now, at Fellow.app.
Carolann Harding: VFC funding enabled SmartICE to acquire new talent. Our interns have designed processes, created instructional videos and developed a supply chain database, all real tools that are aiding in the growth of the organization. Our interns became an integral part of the SmartICE team. Without VFC funding through their Internship Program, we would have not been able to explore possible opportunities, take on new projects, or grow the organization. As a startup, VFC funding brings immense value and lessens the risk.