A new project is looking to engage youth in the community while providing new opportunities.
The Ladysmith Resources Centre was recently awarded a grant of up to $10,000 from the Community Action Initiative to meet with youth, age 16-22, and community members to present a youth-driven and planned business venture that will not only offer a place to hang out, but also crucial employment skills.
The convening grant means the Resources Centre will also be in the running for a further $200,000 to put the plan into action.
Sam Corrington, project co-ordinator with the Resources Centre, said it was the youth advisory coalition that came up with the idea of a youth-run business.
“Since I’ve been at that table, for the last year and a half, there has been a lot of conversation about youth not having a place to call their own,” said Corrington. “This convening grant is a chance for us to put together a real feasibility study and real business plan on what might that look like in Ladysmith,” said Corrington.
The wanting was not just for a place to hang out, but to engage socially, she added, where youth could also gain work experiences.
There are many businesses, said Corrington, such as the 49th Parallel that offer youth employment opportunities, but jobs are few and far between.
“This a chance to consider providing more work experiences.”
In her time working with youth, Corrington has learned the best way to get youth on a productive path is to get them thinking about the future and getting engaged in the community.
The centre did a youth study in April last year where suggestions like a bowling alley, coffeeshop or movie house might be good ideas for youth, but they were not presented as youth-run businesses, said Dennis Lait, executive director with the centre.
“We taken that one step further to say ‘What if the youth were the ones to develop and actually be the ones that run an activity?’ ” said Lait.
Corrington and Lait said they are looking for youth to step forward and identify what would be a good fit for them in the town of Ladysmith.
“Then having them partner with some business members,” said Corrington. They have already approached the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce which is on board with the idea.
“They have the expertise of what does it take to run a business in Ladysmith,” said Corrington.
Time however is not on their side as the feasibility study must be done by September 30.
The Resources Centre is inviting youth to a meeting on July 18 at 6 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room of their new building on Second Avenue and High Street.
“If we can get the youth to identify a project they would like to initiate and build that fits within the framework of the community, then they have the opportunity to be on the ground floor of this,” said Lait. This involvement, he added, will help create jobs and hopefully get youth more connected to the community. Pizza and soft drinks will be provided. There will also be a meeting for potential business mentors on Thursday, July 21 at 8 a.m. in the meeting room.
Anyone interested in attending can contact Corrington at 250-245-3079 or e-mail email@example.com.
Competition for the $200,000 grant is stiff with only five to seven awarded and the Resources Centre is hoping for vast community involvement from youth and mentors to create the best model possible.
“If somebody’s out there that feel they have a skill or knowledge in this project, by all means come and see us,” said Lait.
Corrington said they are also willing to take ideas to the youth group, but would like to see the initiative and drive come from the youth.
“What will make this successful is if the youth have ownership from Day 1,” said Lait.
Lait and Corrington stressed this is not a short-term activity and they need enthusiastic youth to help propel it forward.
“This is work over the summer. We are asking them to really roll up their sleeves and do some work with us,” said Corrington.