12 highlights from our year

Working with Indigenous communities

A partnership between the Centre for Business Venturing at Smith and Spalyan Education Group brought business, entrepreneurship and management training to six Indigenous communities in B.C.

The three new programs announced in October 2021 provide specialized training in business applications, proposal writing and Indigenous leadership to approximately 30 members of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government, Yunetsit’in Government, Tsi Del Del First Nation,ʔEsdilagh First Nation, Tl’etinqox Government and the Tl’esqox First Nation. Participants in the programs will earn Certificates of Completion.

“Providing every person with the opportunity to learn and develop is really what matters most, and we are excited to bring six communities together for a collaborative, immersive experience,” said JP Shearer, partnership lead for Smith and associate director of the CBV.

The programs build on the success of a pilot program delivered through the CBV in September 2020 in partnership with Red Bird Circle Inc. and the Xeni Gwet’in community. A $70,000 grant from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in B.C. allowed 32 members to participate in that three-month program and earn a Certificate of Completion in Business and Administration Management.

During the program, three new businesses were founded in the community and 96 per cent of participants in that pilot program said they felt more prepared for the workforce upon its completion. Ninety per cent indicated they were interested in furthering their education.

For June Lulua, founder of Spalyan Education Group, that pilot program proved Smith’s commitment to providing entrepreneurship and business education to Indigenous communities across Canada and gave her the confidence to pursue a partnership.

“After (the pilot program) was complete, I knew that (Smith) was progressive and flexible in terms of program creation and delivery,” said Lulua, who noted that the usual top-down education model, which often concludes with an exam or similar form of testing can be a barrier to success for Indigenous people.

At Spalyan, Lulua works with educational institutions to provide a rich and diverse learning environment and deliver culturally safe training and education to students from Indigenous communities. With an increase in grant funding from the ministry, Spalyan and the CBV co-designed the sessions, which began in September 2021.

“With Spalyan, we have been able to achieve this by blending our teaching with First Nations' traditions and cultures to deliver innovative business education. It is truly an exciting time for CBV at Smith,” Shearer said.

Lulua was particularly excited about the Certificate of Completion in Indigenous Leadership program, in which students explore topics like colonialization and Tsilhqot’in resistance, the Indian Act and Tsilhqot’in Governance, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Units were taught by Indigenous leaders as well as by Indigenous allies and mentors.