Innovation Initiatives Ontario North

Grow Grant

Two people working on electronics together.

With high youth unemployment and a pressing need for business education and resources, these programs help young people unleash their inner entrepreneur.

Award amount

$200,000

Award timeline

2017-2019 (24 months)

People impacted

93

Age group

Early adults (19-25)

Catchment

Muskoka, Nipissing, Parry Sound & Timiskaming

Community size

Rural

Population served

General population

Opportunity

According to a 2016 Labour Market Survey, youth unemployment in Northern Ontario stood at 16%—above the provincial average. A Northern Ontario Policy Institute study also identified a pressing need for entrepreneurship education and resource.

Approach

Selected Grant Result: People become entrepreneurs.

Innovation Initiatives Ontario North wanted to provide increased economic opportunities for youth by providing educational and experiential training in entrepreneurship to youth in rural areas. The program included paid work placements to deliver experiential learning through mentorship from existing entrepreneurs.

Community impact

  • Over 180 youth were educated through workshops, outreach, and partnerships—exceeding the target number of 90 people.
  • Three participants plan to continue to run family businesses following their experience on the program.
  • Eight have started their own businesses and a further 19 indicated they are serious about pursuing entrepreneurship.

Eight participants have started their own businesses, and a further 19 indicated they are serious about pursuing entrepreneurship.

A 2016 Labour Market Survey found that 16% of youth in Northern Ontario are unemployed—higher than the provincial average. A Northern Ontario Policy Institute study also identified a pressing need for entrepreneurship education and resources in Ontario. The study found that a fear of failure, not having the right skills or knowing where to locate resources, poor access to mentoring and strategic advice, and a lack of financial resources were significant barriers to youth entrepreneurship.

Could improving entrepreneurship skills of young people help their employment prospects?

Innovation Initiatives Ontario North (IION), a Regional Innovation Centre that supports innovative entrepreneurs, start-ups, and existing companies to develop and scale, thought so.

With help from a $200,000 Grow grant from OTF, IION sought to increase economic opportunities for youth in rural areas around Muskoka, Nipissing, Parry Sound, and Timiskaming by providing educational and experiential training in entrepreneurship.

They launched the Youth Entrepreneurship Placement Program (YEPP), a custom-designed placement program to help young people develop an entrepreneurial mindset and potentially start their own enterprises.

The experiential learning would come in the form of expert mentorship from existing entrepreneurs in the region through paid employment placements.

YEPP was an immediate success. Multiple, long-lasting connections were made between local youth and local businesses. Over 180 youth were educated through workshops, outreach, and partnerships—exceeding the initial target of 90.

As for inspiring new entrepreneurs, three participants plan to run family businesses following their experience on the program, eight have started their own businesses, and a further 19 indicated they are serious about pursuing entrepreneurship.

Now called the Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP), the 16-week paid placement continues to nurture new entrepreneurs through three core elements:

  • Hands-on learning: Participants are matched with an innovative company
  • Educational learning: Online guided and structured entrepreneurial educational program
  • Virtual/soft skills professional development activities
  Colleagues using a digital tablet and working in a factory.

Grow grants

OTF invests in local community projects that aim to achieve greater impact in their communities.

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