Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 28/6/2018 (1175 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Old Ex Arena in the North End was the scene of a Winnipeg whiteout Thursday as 16 of the city’s leading businesses "drafted" what they hope will be the next generation of corporate leadership.
As the theme from Hockey Night in Canada echoed through the arena, the Business Council of Manitoba kicked off its second annual Youth CEO summer internship program with a mock "hockey draft" where 16 high school-aged kids were "selected" by business council members to take part in six-week work placements where they get exposure to some of the realities of the corporate world.
The corporate CEO’s got to have a little fun announcing their "draft" picks and the kids got the chance to ham it up with a boisterous crowd made up of some of the 2,000 youth participants of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC).
But more than the enthusiastic fun of the event itself, the program allows participants — young kids from the inner city who show promise — the opportunity for what Don Leitch, CEO of the business council, said could be a "transformative experience." And the corporate CEOs get to practice what they preach about inclusion and reaching out to the young, growing Indigenous and new-Canadian communities who proprietors and managers will need to rely on for the future sustainability of their businesses.
Steve Kroft, the CEO of Conviron, told the group, many of whom had their families with them, "The leaders of our business community believe in you. We absolutely believe in you. We know if we hold the door open just a crack that with your enthusiasm and your energy you will go running through and help make this community a better place."
The program is the brainchild of the BCM’s vice-president Kevin Chief, the former MLA and former staff member at WASAC. (He was also likely the guilty party who thought it was a good idea to give everyone in attendance noise-makers and then encouraged the kids to try to replicate the decibel level at Bell MTS Place during the Stanley Cup playoffs.)
Chief has often spoken about the positive impact his work at WASAC has had as well as the support he received at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD), another co-sponsor of the event, in making sure he got on the right path in his life.
"We can’t TELL young people what an incredible opportunity this could be. We have to show them," Chief said. "When CEOs take the time to come to the heart of Winnipeg’s North End and say the work they (the youth) do is important, not only is that very inspiring for these youth, it is empowering."
It could also be an important stepping stone for future career opportunities for youth who do not have the same kind of opportunities as their peers from other neighbourhoods in the city.
"Many of these young people do not have summer job experience they can put on their resumes," Chief said. "To be able to put down a job placement at True North, or the Bank of Montreal or IGM on their resume will help them get other employment opportunities and help them when they apply for bursaries and scholarships. It’s really practical support."
The collection of Winnipeg business leaders sharing the same stage — including Kroft, Paul Soubry from NFI Group Inc. (the new name for New Flyer Industries), Mark Chipman of True North Sports & Entertainment, Rob Penner of Bison Transport, Jeff Goy of Wawanesa Insurance, Jamie Brown of Frantic Films — was impressive regardless of what the occasion was. The fact that it was in a de-commissioned hockey rink converted to a community centre at an inner city youth event illustrated their commitment.
Naveen Sharma, 15, was selected to intern at New Flyer. When he was told its CEO, Paul Soubry, was named CEO of the year in Canada this year, he said he didn’t know that.
"I was happy to go with any of the companies," he said. "To get to work with a successful businessman will help me out in the future and someone who I will learn a lot from no matter what the industry."
It’s only the second year of the program, but the 80-member business council that includes the largest employers in the province, has to turn down companies who want to participate.
Leitch said according to the feedback from last year, it was a phenomonal success. Between the youth participants, the other older leaders who work with the kids, about 40 youth are engaged in the program.
The BCM work with WASAC and CAHRD and some of the high school principals and guidance counsellors to identify the youth who might participate based on a variety of factors, not just academic.
"It’s a good cross-section primarily from inner schools of students who probably would not otherwise have exposure to some of the largest business in the province," Leitch said.
Anaka Sanduq, 18, this year’s coordinator of the Youth CEO summer internship program, was a participant last year placed with Richardson International.
"It was an incredible experience," said the first year University of Manitoba student. " As a youth participant, I felt very supported every step of the way. I was able to see so many different fields — marketing, economics, social media."
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Denae Petti, 18, a member of the Peguis First Nation, was selected to intern at Conviron, the Winnipeg company that makes growth chambers for plant scientists and commercial research companies. She’s headed to Vancouver in the fall to study science at University of British Columbia, and said she is excited to see what happens in a company such as Conviron.
Maples Collegiate grad Kylee Sinclair was drafted to spend her work placement at the Winnipeg Free Press to see how the newspaper operates before she heads to University of Winnipeg in the fall.
Among other things, the BCM has run the Aboriginal Education Awards program for 17 years in partnership with the governments of Canada and Manitoba, and has given out more that 2,000 awards totalling more than $5 million.
Jamie Brown of Frantic Films said he’s happy to be participating in the Youth CEO program for the second year. There are lots of young people interested in the film business and he regularly spends about a half hour a week responding to random enquires about career development.
He said, "I’m involved in the business council’s Aboriginal Education Awards and we’re trying to tie them together to create programs from the early stages all the way on up."
Martin Cash Reporter
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.