The Government of BC’s expanded adoption of social and First Nations-focused procurement policies means there are new opportunities for W̱SÁNEĆ owned businesses to bid and win government contracts. 

 

However, many community-owned businesses don’t yet qualify to bid on lucrative public sector contracts, and that’s where the WLC’s latest initiative comes in. Collaboratively with the South Island Prosperity Partnership(SIPP), the WLC is working to partner with post-secondary organizations like Camosun College, University of Victoria and Royal Roads. These partnerships would result in the development of accessible micro-credential programs to equip local entrepreneurs with the knowledge and qualifications to grow and scale their businesses and bid on government contracts.

According to SIPP, micro-credentials are “a focused, tailored way to provide people with the relevant training they need to pursue employment or self-employment. When co-developed with post-secondaries, they can also ladder into certificate and diploma programs at a college or university.”

These micro-credential programs are being developed cooperatively with the South Island Prosperity Partnership and local post-secondary institutions in order to identify and reduce the barriers to accessing post-secondary education. Currently, obstacles like ineffective transportation and lack of childcare can prevent local entrepreneurs from getting the training and qualifications they need to take their enterprises to the next level. 

The WLC has asked for accommodations to mitigate these barriers and the good news is programs can be delivered in the community, such as at the language school, and online, making it easier for learners to attend classes.

“For residents of our most northern village, you can catch a bus at 6 am in the morning and you still won’t be able to make it downtown until 8:20am – after the time that many people begin work. Or, if you’re taking an evening class at Camosun College, the last bus that will take you back to our area leaves at 7:20pm. So, for a lot of us, maybe we can get to campus but getting home is a real issue” shares Dave Paul, the micro-credential program facilitator and CRD liaison at the WLC. “For similar reasons, hosting programs at the Native Friendship Centre isn’t ideal for our members”

For a local caterer, learning how to access professional equipment affordably is top of mind. For a local seamstress, learning how to understand her inventory and supply chain processes so she can guarantee shipments going out each month could really help her scale her business. Another local small janitorial business, wonders how to hire and scale in order to get government contracts. 

“A lot of small businesses don’t get registered because they think they don’t have to. If you want government contracts though, you need to be registered. These are the types of things these micro-credential courses can help you understand.” Dave continues.

Another accessibility issue SIPP and WLC are working to address together is the colonial framework of capitalism and post-secondary education.

Shares Elysia Glover, the Manager of Strategic Partnerships at SIPP, “Running a business doesn’t have to be done in a colonial way. There are ways of doing things that reflect W̱SÁNEĆ values, and we want to equip W̱SÁNEĆ members with the knowledge to run their business their way” “The microcredential program will be co-designed with W̱SÁNEĆ values in mind, as how you learn how to build your business is just as important.

The WLC is planning two upcoming information sessions to gauge interest for these courses, to get information about the specific barriers faced by the business community and finally, to help community members prepare for the January 2022 intake of the micro-credential courses. 

The info sessions will take place at the end of September and at the end of October. Attendees will leave with a better understanding of what courses will be provided, how the courses can increase their employability or employment opportunities, how they can be funded and what opportunities are available with course completion.

Community members interested in learning more are welcome to attend. Shares Glover, 

Whether you’re still at the idea stage, have a skill or trade and are thinking about working for yourself or you’re already running a business and want to know how to grow it to go after contracts, this session is for you. This is a chance to learn more, ask questions and tell us what you’re interested in” 

The micro-credential courses will begin in Winter.  While the first cohort of programming is focused on helping self-employed community members, upcoming sessions could also focus on increasing the employability of community members, by offering skill upgrading courses. If you’re interested in attending an info session, please add your name to the list here.

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