New Indigenous mentorship program teaching kids entrepreneurial skills

“It really is all about the students”

A new partnership between a Winnipeg school division and a fabrication lab will teach Indigenous students the necessary skills to be an entrepreneur. The program is not just classroom learning, but also working and learning hands on.

Eight Indigenous Grade 12 students from Seven Oaks School Division are part of the program with the North Forge Technology Exchange.

A grant from the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development allowed the students to be paid as part of the program.

The new Indigenous mentorship program is based off the Met Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship (MICE). It was designed for students interested in creating start-ups three years ago.

“Growing off of, I guess, the success the students had with that program the superintendent of Seven Oaks Matt Henderson contacted North Forge to help out with this program during the summer with the Indigenous Student Mentorship Program,” said vice-president of North Forge Marney Stapley.

Stapley added, “He knew that North Forge could help out in terms of learning opportunities for the students and showing them how to use some of the equipment.”

(Students listen to Marney Stapley explain the process of the 3D printer. Darrell Stranger photo)

The fabrication lab produces anything from coasters and wall art to microchips and computer parts.

The students will learn how to take a business idea from infancy and bring it to market in a classroom setting from Scott Angus, who taught as part of MICE, while also learning to use machines like 3D printers and laser cutting that can help bring a physical prototype to life.

“In this specific part here at North Forge, we do a lot of training whether it be related to equipment skills but also skills related to entrepreneurship so innovation, problem solving, idea brainstorming,” said Scott Angus, a facilitator with the Indigenous Student Mentorship Program.

“You know things focused around potentially building a business but more so bigger than that just getting something off the ground and building something they’re interested in and passionate about.”

For students in the program like Amara Stranger, learning hands-on skills like laser cutting is valuable, but meeting new people and seeing options other than going straight to university is refreshing for them.

(What laser-cutting machines can do. Darrell Stranger photo)

“I like doing all of the presentations we get and learning more about the entrepreneurs that come in. They give me like ideas and they make me want to become an entrepreneur myself because it seems like it is fun.”

Stranger said the program opened her eyes to the amount of options she has after high school.

“There’s a lot of options in the world on what to do and there’s not just university and college; you can start your own business.”

Autumn Mccallum said the idea of being able to think of a product and have it come to life would not have been possible if she had not visited North Forge.

“I want to go to school for contracting and like things like that…I was just like this is actually pretty cool. I could literally come here and suggest an idea and they’ll make it happen.”

Stapley said it’s all about the students and making sure they walk away with something of value.

“It really is all about the students, and we’re just super excited to help teach, have the students learn new skills and just see the growth in what they’re learning throughout the summer.”

The program runs until the end of August and students will design a logo and make shirts to commemorate their experience.

The Indigenous student mentorship program will continue next summer with a fresh group of students.

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