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Summer employment program highlights entrepreneurship

Underemployment and unemployment are harsh realities faced by many students. But this summer students will have the option to create their own jobs thanks to a new program being launched at the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus.

The program, called The Summer Institute, is a unique approach to entrepreneurship that will give students and other members of the community a chance to start up a business in a low risk environment.

It is being offered through a collaboration between UNB’s Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre and the technology, management and entrepreneurship department with funding from the government.

“Starting a business is really confusing and we’re trying to help people navigate through that so it’s less risk,” said Gracen Johnson, innovation program developer at the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre.

The program will run between May and August on the UNB Fredericton campus and will be free of cost unless a student wishes to receive course credit.

Everyone accepted into the program will receive up to $10,000 to fund their business and training in business management.

“It’s about keeping barriers low,” said Dr. Dhirendra Shukla, chair of the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre. “We don’t want to make entrepreneurship for only a select group of people. We want it to be a journey for anyone and everyone.”

While Johnson said they are looking for ambitious people with a solid business plan, they are also trying to attract people who are interested in working out of smaller cities such as Fredericton. After all, the program’s motto is “Creating big opportunities in small cities.”

“We’re looking for people who are really ambitious and who want to create something where they’ll have some influence outside of our little corner of the world, but also people who still love living in a place like Fredericton,” Johnson said.

It is staying close to home that is key to The Summer Institute and Johnson said there will be a focus on local resources in the program. This goal is evident in the two sub-programs – Foundry and Woodshop – that make up The Summer Institute.

Although Foundry will be open to any business idea, businesses entered in the Woodshop program will centre on forest sustainability.

“We’ve taken this thing that is a stereotype of New Brunswick and we’ve turned it into something that’s a business opportunity that we can be proud of,” Johnson said.

“Most everyone [in these programs] is talking about IT and wanting to be the next Facebook or Google,” Shukla said. “And what we’re saying is, let’s focus on the resources that we have and try and create something out of what we have access to.”

And this is what The Summer Institute embodies: staying true to the place you call home.

“We are really excited about this opportunity and the hope is that the students see a great benefit,” Shukla said. “I think it’s going to be great for the community overall.”

Applications to The Summer Institute are open to everyone and can be done individually or in teams at Go.unb.ca/tme/summer. The deadline for applications is March 15.

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