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Leadership Foreword

Fostering the Entrepreneurial Skills & Mindsets of Changemakers

Scott Stirrett
CEO & Founder
Parm Gill
Board Chair, VFC Managing Partner, Gill Group

Dear VFC Stakeholders,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rare historical event, which clearly marks a critical juncture in global history. From the ashes of this crisis, there is the opportunity to reimagine the world and the kind of society we want to live in. The past year further demonstrated the broken nature of many social systems, the extent of social inequities, and the continued prevalence of systemic racism and discrimination.

The pandemic presented many challenges for young people who are beginning their careers. The negative effect that graduating into a recession has on wage growth can often last for decades. According to Lisa Kahn of The University of Rochester, “taken as a whole, the results suggest that the labour market consequences of graduating from college in a bad economy are large, negative, and persistent.” Moreover, those who graduate into an economic recession are less likely to be in a management role or hold a skilled position at the age of 30-34, compared to people in the previous age cohort who graduated into a robust economy.

This reality means that young people need more support to successfully launch their careers. Venture for Canada’s mission of fostering entrepreneurial skills and mindset of young people is extremely relevant, timely, and needed.

Furthermore, the rise of automation means that entrepreneurial skills, such as creativity and self-awareness, are more important today than ever before. To be entrepreneurial is to act upon opportunities to create value for others.

The most effective way to develop entrepreneurial skills is through learning from experience.

Through VFC’s programs, young Canadians gain the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge, and networks that they need to have more impactful careers. To effectively respond to pressing social, environmental, and economic challenges, Canada needs a generation of changemakers.

Scaling our Social Impact & Organizational Capacity

While the past year contained many challenges, we are grateful that Venture for Canada’s impact continued to grow, especially given the challenges many other non-profits face. According to recent surveys, as many as one in five social impact organizations indicate that they may have to shut down as a result of the pandemic. Venture for Canada is privileged to be in a position where we have the opportunity to continue to scale our social impact. The number of young people participating in our programs grew from 350 in 2019 to 1,300 in 2020, which is a year-on-year increase of over 350%. As part of this growth, VFC expanded to Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. We are also thrilled to share that even with this rapid scaling, VFC’s programs continued to receive high levels of satisfaction from Fellows, interns, Alumni, and employers.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) continue to be a significant focus of Venture for Canada’s work. In 2020, we hosted our first DEI town hall, worked with a consultant to advance VFC’s DEI strategies, increased VFC Fellowship bursary funding by 33%, and enhanced the accessibility of our programming. Relatedly, we conducted a comprehensive demographic survey to understand our community make-up and will continue to share that year over year. In 2020, 49% of VFC Fellows identified as racialized, 12% as LGBT+, 55% as female, and 30% as immigrants. DEI is an ongoing journey, and we look forward to continuing to listen, learn, and improve in collaboration with all our stakeholders.

We’re also excited to begin VFC’s work in Quebec. In September 2020, VFC launched the Quebec Advisory Council, which is made up of nine leaders from the Quebec entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through the council’s guidance, VFC hired a Montreal-based staff person and the first VFC Fellows and Interns will begin their terms in Summer 2021. As part of these efforts, we are thrilled to increase VFC’s support for Francophone entrepreneurs and young Canadians.

Here’s to a Brighter 2021

As we begin 2021, VFC is on the cusp of launching several new programs, which will provide young Canadians with the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills through shorter-duration and more flexible work-integrated learning opportunities.

We look forward to continuing to diversify VFC’s impact through launching new programs relevant to VFC’s mission and our vision of a Canada where young people can equitably realize their entrepreneurial potential to build the most prosperous place in the world.

We feel for all those who suffered as a result of the pandemic’s health and economic devastation. As of February 2021, the pandemic is still very much ongoing and evolving. There is more need than ever to foster entrepreneurial thinking and establish innovative solutions to humanity’s most pressing challenges.

The future is bright for what the Venture for Canada community can accomplish together. Over the last seven years, Venture for Canada has grown into a community of thousands of people, including Fellow alumni, Fellows, Interns, staff, volunteers, employers, and supporters. Thanks to everyone whose contribution helped make 2020 such a year of growth. Onwards and upwards!

By the numbers