Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is one of the most forward-thinking individuals in the U.S. presidential race. As well as being a champion of Universal Basic Income—a form of social security that guarantees citizens a certain amount of money to combat job losses from automation—the businessman has built a career on recognizing how work is evolving in the modern era. At the top of his résumé is his role as founder of Venture for America, a fellowship program for recent college graduates who want to become startup leaders and entrepreneurs.
The initiative caught the eye of Canadian Scott Stirrett while he was completing his degree at the U.S.’s Georgetown University. An ambitious student with an interest in entrepreneurship, nonprofits, and training, he was frustrated that—as a foreign national in America—he couldn’t apply for the program. His solution was to create a similar organization tailored to his home country.
Venture for Canada was founded five years ago in Atlantic Canada and Ontario. Created with the goal of building a pathway for young people to gain the experience of working in startups and preparing recent grads for the future of work, the organization helps Canadians aged 19 to 24 to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and find their first job.
The organization achieves that aim through two different streams: the internship program and the fellowship program.
“We recruit, train, and support students to intern at Atlantic Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises for 16-week terms,” says Stirrett, interviewed at a Gastown coworking studio. “They are selected and take part in a two-day training camp and receive access to four or five ongoing trainings over the course of those 16 weeks. Over the past year, Venture for Canada has placed over 250 interns at startups in the region, from rural P.E.I. to Halifax.”
Complementing the internship program—which is geared toward those still at school—the fellowship program targets individuals who have just collected their diploma and are looking to start their careers.
“The fellowship program is a selective program,” Stirrett says. “We only take about five percent of applicants. The fellows go through a month-long training camp, which gives them access to the full community, which is important. The people they meet there are more than just friends: that peer group is crucial in terms of helping people navigate early career decisions and giving people a network that can really accelerate their career potential.”
After the training camp is complete, newly minted fellows spend two years working for companies selected by Venture for Canada for their entrepreneurial bent. The individuals—paid competitive salaries fresh out of school and receiving ongoing support from the Venture for Canada team—learn how to be part of building and running a business. Stirrett hopes the fellows will use those skills to bolster other Canadian startups or found their own companies.
The fellowship program has been running for five years on the East Coast and in Ontario. This year is the first that Venture for Canada has been open to partnering with B.C. companies and placing grads in the province.
“Vancouver has one of the fastest-growing startup ecosystems in Canada,” he says. “There is a ton of great small to medium-sized business here. And if there’s one thing in common among millennials in Canada, it’s a desire to live in Vancouver. I think we see a significant demand from grads and students to live and work here, and we as an organization go where we’re wanted and there’s a strong need. B.C. meets that criteria. Our application for the 2020 fellowship will be open in September.”
Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays