2019

The Year that VFC Graduated from Bootstraps to Systems.

Canadian businesses' ability to address emerging and social and economic challenges depends on the entrepreneurial skill of individuals. This year's report features stories of how VFC training has impacted our community, where the rubber meets the road.


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Welcome Letter


Another Exciting 12 Months of Rapid Change

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Scott Stirret
CEO & Founder
Venture For Canada
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Parm Gill
Board Chair, VFC
Managing Partner, Gill Group

Dear Stakeholders, 2019 was a year marked by organizational growth for Venture for Canada. Growth characterized by the number of youth served, the number of provinces we operate in, and the types of programs that we run. According to a recent McKinsey study, while 83% of educators feel youth are ready for work, only 34% of employers and 44% of youth agree. There is an increasing disconnect between the skills that young people have and the skills that young people need. Increasingly, in a rapidly changing world, young people need entrepreneurial skills, such as creativity, adaptability, and nimbleness, to succeed. Venture for Canada empowers youth to pursue entrepreneurial careers and create positive social, economic, and environmental impact. Through profiling the stories of VFC Fellows, Interns, and Fellow alumni, this report illustrates the positive influence that Venture for Canada has on young people, small businesses, and communities across this country. Since its humble beginnings six years ago, the Fellowship program’s impact has grown considerably. The annual cohort has tripled in size, and the program’s influence has expanded to six provinces, including most recently British Columbia. From the organization’s earliest days, there has been a significant emphasis on the importance of community. It’s wonderful to see the social bonds and friendships that exist amongst Fellow alumni even years after completing the program. We are also thrilled to see the recent launch of the Fellow Alumni Council, which will design, build, and execute programming by and for alumni. The Internship program also experienced significant growth last year. Nearly 300 students participated in 2019. In the upcoming year, we are excited to expand the impact of the Internship program to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, as well as deliver new innovative training to support VFC’s Interns from coast to coast. Over the last six years, Venture for Canada has grown into a community of thousands of people, including Fellow alumni, Fellows, Interns, staff, volunteers, employers, and supporters. We want to thank everyone whose contribution helped make 2019 such a year of growth and for making the #vfccommunity so dynamic. The recent COVID-19 crisis demonstrates more than ever the need for VFC’s programs as recent graduates and students across Canada are struggling to find employment. We remain as committed as ever to enriching the entrepreneurial ecosystem during this challenging and unprecedented time. Parm Gill Chair of the Board of Directors Scott Stirrett Founder & CEO

2019 Internship Highlights

Three Hundred Interns and Counting!

A Program Team That's Invested in Your Success.

A Program Team That's Invested in Your Success.

Intern Story


"Other people should know about the energy that the organization provides. It delivers insightful content in an engaging way, and as a participant you really feel that the Internship team is invested in your success."

My Challenge Before VFC? I always felt I had an 'entrepreneurial spirit' but knew I was using it only within the safety of an existing enterprise. Hearing entrepreneurs speak about their journeys and the challenges they overcame changed my perspective. It ignited the idea that entrepreneurship is something that I could take on. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? The Internship Program gave me a chance to regain confidence in my ‘work’ skills. VFC delivers insightful content in an engaging way–participants really feel that VFC is invested in your success. Through the virtual learning assignments I developed and applied skills before returning to the work world. What changed? I’m now part of a network of engaged, visionary people. It motivates me to continue to develop my skills and approach issues with the entrepreneurial and creative mindset that the Venture for Canada program alumni share.

I Learned About the Importance of Networking and Collaboration.

Intern Story


I Learned About the Importance of Networking and Collaboration.

"VFC plays a huge role in demonstrating youth engagement in businesses and the importance of voice in youth about their placement. We are the ones who will be guiding the way of businesses and organizations and what that should look like for the future. What we learn, who we learn it from and who we pass it onto is important to shaping the business industry."

My Challenge Before VFC? I always worried that when I joined an organization people in higher positions wouldn’t have the time to guide or teach me. My VFC Internship proved to me this was not the case. I gained a better understanding of how a small business operates, and learned the value of networking and the importance of collaboration at a startup. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? My Internship wasn’t just a work placement that is routinized. It was a constant process of learning new skills on-the-job, through VFC training, and through interns in different placements across Canada. What changed? I now appreciate the value of connecting with others and growing my network.

I Stepped Out of my Comfort Zone.

I Stepped Out of my Comfort Zone.

Intern Story


"I learned how to be more comfortable working in teams and exposed me to different ideas."

My Challenge Before VFC? My biggest hurdle before participating in VFC's internship program was that I actively avoided challenging situations. Through the training and work experience I received through VFC, I was encouraged to push myself and step out of my comfort zone. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? VFC's internship program helped me grow by pushing me to continuously learn, making me more comfortable with working in teams, and exposing me to different ideas from those around me. What changed? VFC gave me the opportunity to work with different team dynamics and those prepared me for the several teams I currently work with.

2019 Fellowship Highlights

Five Years In and Growing!

What Was Anyone Going to Teach Me After Grad School? Turns out a lot!

What Was Anyone Going to Teach Me After Grad School? Turns out a lot!

Fellow Story


"It is not just a career opportunity. I really believe that being involved with the program has opened avenues that I never would have considered in many aspects of my life."

My Challenge Before VFC? I found the job search required too much patience and trust in a process beyond my control. Waiting for employers to sift through candidates and select only some for interviews was hard. So was waiting on employer decisions and accepting rejection. It got frustrating at times, but because of VFC, I was able to dig a little deeper and discover a new level of discipline and creativity. I find myself leaning into these skills every day in my current role. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? Immersion in the startup world gave me a chance to practice getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I learned to navigate through fear, think through risks, and show up powerfully through my actions. The relationships I’ve made through the program have also been transformational. My new network and I continue to support and push each other to be the best versions of ourselves. I’m proud to be among an incredible group of individuals at VFC. What changed? Being a part of the Fellowship Program is so much more than a career opportunity. Not only do I have a role that I love, but I’ve also started a business, moved provinces, and created a new life for myself. The VFC experience was truly the catalyst that set my life in motion. This program can alter the trajectory of your life if you’re open to the possibility of change and growth.

I Have Been Enlightened in Ways I Never Expected.

Fellow Story


I Have Been Enlightened in Ways I Never Expected.

"I wish other people knew the value of meeting some of Canada's brightest graduates. They have enlightened me in ways I never expected, that alone is worth applying for. You get to meet life-changing people."

My Challenge Before VFC? Before joining the Fellowship Program, I’d struggled with my public speaking skills. I’d always assume there was someone in the room who knew more than I did, focus on that and lose my confidence before speaking. My program instilled in me the reassurance and skills I needed to overcome these fears. I now have confidence I did not possess before joining VFC. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? The most rewarding aspect of my VFC experience is the number of opportunities that it opened in my life. Learning about industries, practices and startup realities paralleled self-discovery. What changed? VFC gave me a chance to develop skills that traditional post-secondary education can’t while connecting me to a community of ambitious, talented, creative new graduates. In hindsight, my growth in areas I never expected alone made the program worth applying for.

The VFC Community is a Great Support Network.

The VFC Community is a Great Support Network.

Fellow Story


"Embrace the diversity of opportunities and learn from others. VFC does the networking groundwork for you so you can actually take time to enjoy it."

My Challenge Before VFC? I’ve always struggled with anxiety. Through VFC I’ve developed a great support network that I can lean on when things get tough. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? VFC pushes you to understand that learning about yourself is a life skill, especially beneficial early on in your career. The program’s guidance led me to a better understanding of who I am, what I want, and what brings me joy. What changed? Meeting people from across Canada makes the overall experience fun. The network I developed through VFC includes friends I became close with during the program. I’m working at an early stage startup and the VFC Community has been there for me with go-to support and advice. We lean on each other on the bad days and share wins on the good days! The VFC Community is a huge part of how I got to this point and who I am today.

2019 Alumni Highlights

This Year Broke the 100 Fellowship Alumni Barrier

The VFC Fellowship Inspired Me to Have Courage and Take Career Risks.

The VFC Fellowship Inspired Me to Have Courage and Take Career Risks.

Alumni Story


"I likely wouldn't have taken the same kinds of risks I did as part of VFC. I also likely wouldn't have had the same amount of courage given to me by the support network."

My Challenge Before VFC? VFC gave me the courage to take risks and develop my network. The Fellowship experience has helped me talk through my challenges with others who are experiencing similar situations. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? VFC gave me the opportunity to pursue a career path that isn't talked about in school– creating value for others. My personal growth happened faster surrounded by creative entrepreneurs than it would have if I’d gone on this journey myself. What changed? As an Alumni, VFC was an amazing jumping off point, and influential experience I’m proud of. VFC is a great way to make friends once you’re out of school and VFC fellows are some of the kindest and most welcoming people I know.

VFC Training as an Accelerant.

Alumni Story


VFC Training as an Accelerant.

"VFC continues to be an active part of my professional journey."

My Challenge Before VFC? I was driven to be an entrepreneur and founded a non-profit back in 2015. But scaling it was a challenge. VFC gave me the tools I needed to successfully grow my company. I launched a year or two earlier than I expected to. I’ll always be grateful to VFC for that acceleration. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? As an Alumni, I know I can count on the community VFC has built for answers, networking with Fellows at potential partner startups, or just to hear a supportive voice. VFC continues to be an active part of my journey. What changed? The future of learning is innovation and VFC is a leader in providing people with space, resources, networks, and tools to do so. I’m grateful to VFC for accelerating my journey and exposing me to both opportunities and personal growth moments. I'm eager to give back to the community in any way I can, and will always be an advocate for the organization and its essential work.

The Fellowship Provides a Community of Support

The Fellowship Provides a Community of Support

Alumni Story


"At VFC I was encouraged to stretch myself out of my comfort zone."

My Challenge Before VFC? My education taught me how to write, but prior to VFC I found talking and presenting to be challenging and uncomfortable. I was encouraged to stretch beyond my comfort zone. Aspects of the experience that were essential to your development? There are so many aspects of VFC beyond getting a job. The VFC community is game to offer advice and keeps its finger on the pulse of Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. VFC exposed me to opportunities at tech companies and helped me understand my options. What changed? I went to school in the USA and didn’t know anyone in Canada before joining VFC. VFC’s strong support network has become a large part of my community in Canada. They’re a great sounding-board when I have challenges and I’m grateful for the skills I’ve been able to apply to my job. I’m also excited to be able to give back and share my experiences with current Fellows. I’m proud to be a part of this community.

Testimonials

Employer Stories

Newfoundland & Labrador
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Carolann Harding
SmartIce
Executive Director, Intern Employer

"VFC makes applying for funding easy. They reduce barriers with a short process and offer an attainable subsidy for startups. The program is flexible, the training is relevant and our interns leave with a strong sense of community."

Nova Scotia
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Shawn Wilkie
Talkatoo
CEO, Fellow & Intern Employer

"Startup employees need to be able to jump in and add value where they can, and VFC Fellows come to us with a can-do attitude. The skills Fellow’s develop through VFC give them a visible confidence boost. VFC Fellows also stand out in that they are well-rounded. Someone who has been exposed to VFC training simply offers more value, sooner, than someone who hasn’t."

British Columbia
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Valerie Song
Ava Technologies
CEO & Co-Founder, Fellow Employer

"One of our best hires came out of the VFC Fellowship Program and we’ve already given them equity in the company. Fellows come with a startup mentality, are able to quickly adapt to a nimble environment, and have great sense of responsibility. It’s a great program if you’re looking for entrepreneurial, values-aligned candidates to join your team."

Program Numbers

The VFC Models by the Numbers

300%
Program Growth 2018 to 2019
Students, recent grads, small business employers, oh my! Our participation growth boomed with the first full year of our Internship Program in Atlantic Canada, and our expansion of our Fellowship Employers to recent grads and startups in British Columbia.
Partner & Program Growth
Social Impact
300+
number of employer partners
60+
educational institution collaborations
555
active members in the Venture for Canada network of Interns, Fellows and Alumni after 5 years
360%
Increase in program participants
In 2019, our numbers exploded. With the introduction of our Internship program we virtually doubled our employer partners and the number of post-secondary institutions we work with. The increase in program participants shown here is a direct result of our enhanced ability to recruit bigger numbers of students and recent grads.
ROI
Building a Future
$135M
in Fellowship Revenue Dollars *
Through our Fellowship surveys, employers communicate the value directly contributed by well-trained, adaptable, and emotionally resilient Fellows. The numbers add up when you factor in less need for training, support, culture fit, and reduced churn costs.
* total reported increase in employer revenue attributable to VFC fellows.
Satisfaction
People Want to Talk About It
Fellows 2019
0%
the extent to which fellows are satisfied with their participation in the Venture for Canada Fellowship program and feel they are better prepared to have an entrepreneurial / impactful career
0%
the percentage of program participants who would recommend VFC
0%
the percentage of employers who indicate a Fellowship participant met or exceeded their expectations *
Interns 2019
0%
the percentage of program participants who would recommend VFC
0%
the percentage of employers who indicate that a VFC Intern met or exceeded their expectations
0%
of Interns come from underrepresented populations **
Employers 2019
0%
the percentage of employers who would recommend VFC
We ask for net promoter type scores (e.g. would you recommend the program?) at least once a year for Fellows and three times per year for Interns. The high level of satisfaction tells us we're doing something right but we also see this as a research opportunity. Our surveys include open-ended responses and leave space for comprehensive consideration. The insights gleaned from the feedback informs rapid iteration on our programs.
* from the 2019 fellow and employer survey ** The following five categories are classified as underrepresented by Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC): women in STEM; Newcomers to Canada; Persons with disabilities, Indigenous; or studying in their first year. Interns were asked to self-identify as belonging to one or more of these.
Education/Skills Score
Investing in People
256
Hours of live learning delivered in 2019
426
Learners who participated in VFC programming in 2019
989
Hours of online learning delivered in 2019
25,000
Learning videos utilized by Interns and fellows in 2019
Education is at the core of all VFC programming. These numbers, pulled from VFC's learning management system, provides a snapshot of how much we've grown since 2018 -- nearly 1000 hours of online learning and 25,000 videos watched, since we've made online learning assets available to our participants.
In 2019 VFC graduated from training activities to a training system, which maps all VFC training to the key entrepreneurial skills needed in today's dynamic workforce. Anchored by our new Learning Management System, VFC can now track training engagement and outputs for every program participant.
Support

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Funders

A Big Thank You

To all of our donors, sponsors and funders big and small; in five years we've gone from a team of two with a bootstrapped budget to 425+ program participants and almost 1200 hours of entrepreneurial skills-training provided. Your support enabled this growth, and the resulting exponential impact. Thank you.

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