Raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, it's a no brainer why Venture For Canada's Founder & Executive Director Scott Stirett has created such a wide footprint in the Halifax startup community. From actively engaging in debate competitions throughout high school to studying foreign policy through his Bachelor of Science in Foreign Studies at Georgetown University, Scott has always had a passion for leading change-making community initiatives. While writing for the Georgetown University newspaper, Scott founded a student group that elected 8 students to public office in the District of Columbia. These impressive feats continued as Scott graduated and began working as an Analyst with Goldman Sachs. Jumping right into the "real world", Scott began to feel a disconnect---Was it normal to feel like you've just been thrown right in, with zero training? Among his friends and colleagues, similar sentiments were felt. In addition, many of his peers were passionate about working with startups, but having found it difficult to access those opportunities they took the corporate route that was paved, polished and quite accessible.
This is what ignited Scott to return to Canada and found Venture for Canada (VFC), a bridge program that connects the gaps felt between university and entering the workforce, specifically geared towards startups. In Canada, we have lacked an apprenticeship culture. Apprenticeships have generally been limited to the skilled trades and vocational training for other jobs have been left to colleges that build curricula only for particular employers or industries in mind. So where does that leave everyone else?
Germany is known for their unusually high focus on skills-oriented training and around the age of 16 to 18 more than 50% of all German students opt to enter the country's "dual system" of training contracts with employers. These 2/3 years of training with a company is combined with subsidized education which usually leads to a job at its conclusion and lowers the national unemployment rates. This is the culture VFC is encouraging in Canada, bridge programs that better prepare recent graduates and train them for the workforce.
"We fill the gaps felt between school and the workforce."
As such, VFC, now 3 years running, has 5 full-time staff and has grown a community of over 180 fellows with funding provided by RBC, Dentons, Ontario Centres of Excellence and others including private individuals and charitable foundations. Every year, over 2000 applications come pouring in. Once fellows are selected, they are provided with a month long rigorous training camp where coding bootcamps take place and executives from various industries provide insightful workshops and training sessions. Then fellows begin their startup journey working with one of the ~60 startups across Ontario or Nova Scotia.
Over two years, VFC continues to nurture their fellows with training workshops led by industry professionals, executives and founders, some of which include "Women in STEM", "Conflict Management", "From Startup to IPO", in addition to legal and general startup ecosystem workshops. Most importantly however, a fellow has the entire VFC community there to support them. Startups have the opportunity to acquire vetted, trained talent and youth benefit from increased job opportunities tailored to their preferences. As VFC continues to bridge the gap between recent grads and the workforce, I encourage you to check out their application process and apply to be part of their next cohort!
Contributor: Maryam Sabour