Province announces expanded funding for youth entrepreneurs in Windsor area
Representatives from the Ontario government have made a stop in Windsor to announce $27 million in province-wide funding to support youth entrepreneurs as part of an effort to reduce youth unemployment.
The funding will be used over two years to extend existing provincial programs designed to help young people with new ideas to get started or expand.
Daiene Vernile, parliamentary assistant to the minister of research and innovation, said it’s risky for youth to start their own companies so it’s necessary for the government to provide support.
“We know right across Ontario at colleges and universities, we’re seeing young people graduating who do have great ideas and the province of Ontario is saying to them, ‘We know you’re there. You have these great ideas. You have the knowhow. Now we want to invest in you,’” said Vernile Friday at the University of Windsor’s EPICentre.
Vernile said these young people are going to be creating future jobs.
Locally, youth can gain support through WETech Alliance, the EPICentre, the Small Business Centre under theWindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator and St. Clair College’s Genesis Entrepreneurship & Innovation Centre.
“Youth unemployment is a serious issue right across Ontario, but we also have a lot of pluses,” said Vernile. “We see a lot of young people coming out of universities and colleges who are bright, they’re able-bodied, they’re willing to go and we want to give them a helping hand.”
The expanded funding comes from the province’s $150 million Youth Jobs Strategy in the 2015 budget.
Kyle Bassett, founder of the company RMRDTech and a PhD candidate in the engineering field at UWindsor, has been taking advantage of the services offered through the EPICentre and WETech.
Bassett uses the workspace at the EPICentre to develop his products, which are focused on providing sustainable electricity to people in rural areas across the world who live without power and adequate lighting.
“As an entrepreneur, taking it from the step where you’re working at a home office, where you’re building stuff in your garage, and actually transitioning that into a working manufacturing space is a huge step,” he said.
Having the provincial government involved in funding these types of programs is “investing in their future,” said Bassett.
“The gains for the government can be exponential,” he said. “If you consider an investment, there’s different ways they can spend money to promote job growth. Innovation and entrepreneurism is an area where there’s the potential for huge payoff in communities.”
WETech CEO Yvonne Pilon said she wishes these programs were available to her 10 years ago when she began a tech start-up out of university.
People like Bassett should be taken as a reason to encourage other youth to become entrepreneurs, said Pilon.
“The story we want to tell today is these programs are affecting our local community,” she said. “They’re affecting agencies, they’re affecting entrepreneurs and they’re going to affect our employment rate.”