The WLC has launched a community skills and small business showcase to enhance economic development, skills training and employment rates within the community.

Shown above: Pottery by Faye Oakes

Recently, the WLC created and launched an Art Protocol – specifically showcasing W̱SÁNEĆ artists that offer large scale commercial art – such as murals, totem poles, sculptures and the types of large installations typically commissioned for public buildings. The intention of this initiative was to provide culturally appropriate direction for settlers that wish to commission W̱SÁNEĆ art, ensuring proper considerations and compensation are provided.

In addition to the Art Protocol, the WLC has run a series of articles on the history of knitting in our community. Knitting has a special historic significance that has directly impacted the quality of life of so many of our community members. In these posts, just a few W̱SÁNEĆ past and contemporary knitters have been featured. 

Another initiative, the Celebration of Culture, showcased some of the talents of our community members, including hula hooping and spoken word poetry. 

While the feedback we’ve received about these initiatives has been overwhelmingly positive, we have also had several members concerned about the equity of such features. Namely, within our broader community, there are a great number of artisans, business owners and skilled tradespeople who have not yet been featured. 

Along with knitters, the W̱SÁNEĆ community has a long tradition of weaving, sewing and embroidery. In addition to large-scale works of art, we have numerous potters, painters, graphic artists, musicians,  performers and more that are doing incredible things. Finally, our community is home to many small and micro businesses that offer services ranging from landscaping to graphic novel design. The talent pool of our wider community is immense, but it hasn’t received equitable exposure and credit, yet.

In addition to this community feedback, we’ve also received feedback that although each month we showcase numerous Employment Opportunities, in many cases we don’t have enough applicants from within our own communities. 

This gap in skills and training is one of the reasons we hosted information sessions about Camosun’s Bridge Watch Program – which provides free training for Indigenous interested in a career at sea. 

Starting in July of 2021, we’re taking action to address these related issues by initiating a skills and small business showcase. Each month, we’ll be featuring the art, businesses and skills of our community members, based on your submissions. 

The intention of this project is to spotlight the many incredible talents within our community, showcase and promote local W̱SÁNEĆ businesses, and eventually, build out a comprehensive database of skills and businesses.

This database would act as the beginning of a larger initiative with the South Island Prosperity Project, to provide micro-credential training programs and pair community members with employment opportunities.

This skills and small business showcase, and eventual database will help the WLC achieve its mandate of promoting the interests of W̱SÁNEĆ first Nations, and promoting sustainable and equitable development of resources, including human resources, within W̱SÁNEĆ Territory in three ways.

Firstly, by promoting local skills and small businesses, we can provide valuable exposure to individuals in our community that have created their own employment opportunities. Secondly, showcasing talented community members shares what is possible for our youth, who in some cases can benefit from leadership and examples in these areas. Finally, and possibly most importantly, this allows us to begin to bridge the gap between skills we possess within our communities and ones that have high demand. 

As the WLC expands, the need for talented, trained and skilled community members to join us only increases. 

To submit your skill or small business to be featured, please click here.

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