Visions Conference: Youthful Entrepreneurs Get Options

By Ronald B. Barbour

New Westminster-A traveling road show is currently making the rounds within the province bringing a message of hope and opportunity to the Native youth regarding their future.

The Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture, the sponsors of a dozen youth options programs developed the Visions for the Future conferences as a response to concerns expressed by contemporary youth.

“This is the second year, officially, of the program, but the idea for it came about 1996 after the Premier’s Youth Forum,” says Chris McAuliffe, a communications coordinator for the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture.

“This program is in particular is set up to identify opportunities for Aboriginal youth throughout the province in terms of career planning, business training, some of the educational opportunities that are available to them within the communities.”
The Visions for the Future conferences are targeting Native youth ages 15-29 and is delivering their hopeful message to 14 urban centres thoughout the province. The Visions for the Future conference stopped at Douglas College recently – the only conference slated for the lower mainland.

The Visions… conference brought together a host of representatives from a wide variety of education institutions and potential funding sources such as Langara College’s new Aboriginal Studies program; NITEP; First Nations Health Careers; Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; Ministry of Attorney General; Kwantlen College; Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security; Open Learning Institute; Youth Options B.C.; Pittman’s Business College; Canadian Tourism College; Options For Youth and reps for Litefoot’s return engagement – Red Ryder Tour ’99.

Flavio Caron, contracted by the Ministry and Visions to co-ordinate this conference is excited about what the Vision conference offers youth.

“Three major things the first being awareness – awareness of opportunity. And with awareness of opportunity, trying to match that into self-confidence, self-esteem issues and bringing that to the forefront,” says Caron.

“The Second one is, again with the opportunity, career options that go with that and in the Aboriginal community, we have a perhaps it’s a mythical advantage of that we know what the word ‘vision’ means. So that’s what I try instill as well. We have to have a vision – a personal vision, cultural vision, a community vision that we’re working towards and matching that vision with those career opportunities, so that you’re doing something that you love and that ties in with having a passion for life in what you’re doing.

“We’re also linking together the entrepreneurial spirit with those career options. The biggest growth in the economy without question…is the growth in self-employment. So even if that’s not the choice for a young person, you’ll have to be aware of it as an option.”

The Visions for the Future conferences will be targeting these following locations: Prince George, Chetwynd, Fort St. James, Kelowna during late October and early November, Massett/Haida Gwaii on November 8th; Victoria/Saanich on November 15th; Port Hardy on November 19th; Lillooet on November 24, and in Merritt, January 2000.

Caron stresses what he understands to be a key point for finding your way to success. “Find out what you want to do – find out what you’d love to do, find out what you’re good at. Make it part of your life’s passion,” says Caron.

From that point Caron suggests that the opportunities and options can be exploited though many of the various funding programs available such as Options for Youth, and YOU BET, the Youth Business and Entrepreneurship Training Program.
McAuliffe feels the Visions… conferences have been quite successful in bringing useful and accessible information to the youth.

“Last year our target for participation was 750 youth and by the end of our program year we had over 2500 participants – and that was with 11 conferences,” says McAuliffe.

“This year we’re running 14 conferences across the province. We’re hoping to get a thousand participants but I’m sure that number will be surpassed very soon.”