Growing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs in Rural B.C.

Nechako Lakes

Where does innovation come from? We've all heard about the exciting, fast-paced culture of tech start-ups, or admired the business savvy of burgeoning entrepreneurs we see on television. Often we’re painted the picture that innovation happens in big cities, but in reality it can happen anywhere. Nechako Lakes School District in north-central B.C. is actively supporting its students to become part of the next generation of entrepreneurs and technologists.

ICubed summit participants

The Strategy

Nechako Lakes School District has a rich history of developing and implementing local projects. In October 2017, Nechako Lakes School District held iCubed, a tech and entrepreneurship summit for secondary and elementary students. The event featured speakers, exhibitions and activities that showcased the possibilities of entrepreneurship and innovation for students and encouraged them to consider career opportunities that aren’t yet on their radar. More than 160 participants attended in-person or by live-stream.

The event was supported by the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) Canada, a registered charity that supports entrepreneurial thinking in young minds, and Innovation Central Society, a non-profit dedicated to helping the region’s technology sector grow and thrive.

Events of the Day

  • The keynote speaker was Georgiy Sekretaryuk, a 19-year-old entrepreneur and ambassador for the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad, who inspired youth with his experiences starting a business.
  • A panel of entrepreneurs from northern B.C. and the Lower Mainland demonstrated to students that they don't have to leave the North to pursue innovative new technologies and ideas.
  • Thirteen industries supported the exhibition by showcasing products, technologies and innovators from northern B.C. so youth could see tangible examples of innovative technologies, such as a zero-energy hydraulic pump,  precision agriculture with the help of drones, sustainable agriculture practices, and the school district’s own flight simulator and Lego robotics display.
  • Students completed an ideation challenge to spark their entrepreneurial thinking, teamwork, ideation processes and generate new ideas about how to use a common tool.

The summit also marked the launch of School District 91’s entrepreneurship course in partnership with the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad. The course pairs students with mentors from the local business community to develop and pitch a business idea in an inter-district venture challenge. The course also helps students develop entrepreneurial thinking and skills to support launching their own business ideas or the next step of their careers.

student working on technology project

The summit was made possible in part through funding from the Ministry of Education and the Northern Development Initiative Trust Shoulder Tappers program for career co-ordinators or recruitment specialists who work within school districts in northern B.C. to point students in the right direction with greater mentorship and positive career input. The Shoulder Tappers program has helped Nechako Lakes School District create many new initiatives and extra regional partnerships, including the iCubed Summit. 

Taking the Long View

For co-organizer Sagar Saxena, entrepreneur and community engagement and partnerships officer with School District 91, the event spread enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and challenged students to think differently about their career possibilities. It also invited local industries and businesses to invest in the next generation of youth in the community.

students participating in wall drawing activity

By nurturing the next generation to pursue business opportunities and new ideas in B.C.’s North, local businesses can help keep youth in the community and grow its long-term economic development future.

Over the long-term, Saxena hopes to create a network of school district alumni with successful business ventures to inspire and support students as mentors. With “motive brings energy” as a guiding theme, they will continue to create accessibility for youth in rural and remote communities similar to that in bigger B.C. centres so rural communities can flourish and retain young talent.

Looking Ahead

With the success of the first summit, many regional and extra regional partners are joining us to support iCubed and its sustainability in the North. In coming years, organizers hope to expand the event to include other rural communities in northern B.C. and to get even more support from local industries and entrepreneurs to mentor and invest in the youth of their community.

Additionally, the attendance of city councillors and economic development officers from the area helped demonstrate their commitment to young minds and pull together a support system for future entrepreneurs – something they’ll build on for the next summit.

guests speaking to audience on stage

January 26, 2018