By Jordan MacDonald, Employment Social Enterprise Project Coordinator
Hecate Strait Employment Development Society (HSEDS) has been assisting the residents of Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte City, Masset, and surrounding communities achieve their employment, training, and settlement goals for more than 25 years.
Since January, I have fulfilled the role of Project Coordinator, Employment Social Enterprise with HSEDS in partnership with Ecotrust Canada’s North Coast Innovation Lab. The goal of this partnership is to explore employment social enterprise initiatives that HSEDS could undertake to provide experiential learning activities and support its clients to gain hands-on work experience.
Social enterprises are business organizations that prioritize the creation of social value over profits alone. For an employment social enterprise this means the organization works with its employees to address the barriers to employment they experience and provide training in workplace-specific skills while developing other essential and transferable skills. This approach seeks to provide a supportive work environment where individuals are viewed as employees – not simply clients – and they are able to build the confidence needed to achieve gainful employment in the community.
To date this project has connected with other employment social enterprises to gather best practices in the field. It has also worked within HSEDS to better understand both the programs and services that are offered, as well as the needs and expectations of the people who interact with the organization. A review of employment social enterprise models has also been completed with special attention to ideas that could address the specific needs of Prince Rupert’s labour market.
Tourism and event planning
In the coming months, I will be working with HSEDS to develop an experiential training cohort that will integrate both in-class and community-based learning activities focused on tourism, event planning, and customer service. Through this course participants will learn and complete specific tasks related to working in a retail or tourism environment. This cohort will support the entrepreneurial spirit of Prince Rupert and act as a pilot and learning opportunity for any future retail-based social enterprise activities.
While in Prince Rupert I have also had an opportunity take in many of the exciting activities and events that make this community so unique. This includes attending the All Native Basketball Tournament, Salmon Fest, La Cabane à Sucre, and exploring several historic sites and trails along the way.
I have also had the privileged of continuing to participate in several events and conferences relating to my current program of studies. In early June, I attended the Congress of the Humanities where I presented on the connection of university-based refugee resettlement groups to their community contexts.
While at Congress, I also attended workshops and sessions hosted by the Association of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research, which had specific relevance to the work I am a part of in Prince Rupert. This included the ability for social enterprises to take part in government and business procurement and purchasing activities, youth outcomes in work-integration social enterprises, and strategic planning in the non-profit context.
Each of these areas – whether they be social enterprise, employment, skill development, food literacy, or immigration – are connected through the lens of social innovation. In each of these projects I am working to explore how existing initiatives are socially innovative or can be innovated in some way. Barriers to employment, childhood obesity, and the integration of newcomers pose complex challenges that require socially responsible and innovative approaches and solutions.