Hamilton Spectator

By Meredith MacLeod 

Scott Morrison has a full-time machining job as of Monday morning.

That's thanks to a 32-week training program that introduces participants to the basics of welding, electrical, fluid power, blueprints, machining and automation systems.

Trainees get work boots, tools and a tablet, along with placement in an eight-week co-op and all of it comes for a fee of just $250.

The Entry Level Advantage to Employment program (ELATE), a partnership between Mohawk College and the Industry Education Council (IEC) of Hamilton, is accepting applications for its second round of training. The deadline is April 10 and training for a maximum of 24 people will begin May 4 at Mohawk's Stoney Creek campus.

Morrison, 21, finished up a two-month co-op with a Stoney Creek machining company Thursday and was immediately offered a full-time position. He hopes that leads to a shot at a machining apprenticeship.

Morrison has been on his own since high school and was working a landscaping job. He knew it wasn't for him and he was trying to save to go back to school. His social worker told him about ELATE.

"It turned out to be the best program," said Morrison. "It was so affordable and I could work a little on the side to pay my rent."

Fellow ELATE grad Sasha Stanekovic also has a full-time job as a technician's assistant at auto parts manufacturer Adventec in Waterdown.

He says he had no luck finding work after finishing an electrical engineering diploma in 2013. When he heard about ELATE, he thought it was "a great opportunity to learn other skilled trades."

He says he'd recommend the program to anyone who wants to work with their hands.

"I don't think you could find this anywhere else."

Cesare Di Donato, executive director of the IEC, says ELATE is meant to be a leg up for youth aged 18 to 29 facing financial or academic barriers who want to work in manufacturing. Some applicants have struggled with finishing high school, others have challenging home lives. Some simply didn't know what they wanted to do as a career.

The training includes health and safety certifications and job search support.

"I don't know of another program like this one," said Di Donato. "This is a condensed, intense skills training program designed to get you into an entry-level position."

The program was supported by a $250,000 grant from the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

Twelve of the 17 youth who finished the training in the first round are employed or in co-ops, says Di Donato.

Jim Campbell, president and majority owner of Adventec, says he finds it "almost impossible" to find the right, long-term people to staff his business on the shop floor.

"I can't find journeymen with broad-based skills to hit the ground running. I call that bandwidth," said Campbell. "I need the kid that takes things apart and tinkers with them."

The ELATE program helped Campbell fill a need. He said a shop-floor technician who shows the right attitude is worth the investment in more advanced training. Workers in his plant have to be adaptable, says Campbell. The company makes 250 different parts and ships 3 million of them a week.

Stanekovic knows the necessary basics and has proved he's willing to work hard, says Campbell.

"He's earnest and well-spoken and he cleans up after himself. There are engineering grads who don't know how to sweep up after themselves when they make a mess."

Piero Cherubini, dean of Mohawk's Skilled Trade and Apprenticeship faculty, says the ELATE program helps both young people facing disadvantages and businesses in need of hiring workers.

"I've been hearing for a while from employers the challenges of attracting people even into entry-level jobs. The employers need people with some skills sets on the manufacturing floor, along with the essential skills of listening."

Mohawk instructors were sensitive to and supportive of the students' needs, says Cherubini.

"I would do this as much as we can. There are many great things that came out of it."



905-526-3408 | @meredithmacleod


Meredith MacLeod covers business and urban affairs for The Spectator. She’s a musician, dog lover, bad golfer, part-time journalism instructor and proud Hamilton native.

ELATE facts

The application form is available at iechamilton.ca. More information is available by emailing elate@iechamilton.ca or calling 905-529-4483 ext. 226.

The deadline to apply is April 10 for the session beginning May 4.

Applications will be reviewed and applicants will be scheduled for an interview.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories attgam.ca/leadershiplab

One upside of the controversy around remarks made late last year by Stephen Poloz about jobless youth is the spotlight shone on youth employment – or lack of – in Canada.



Video: Kenney disagrees with Poloz on unpaid work for students



Video: Finance minister 'encouraged' by latest youth employment figures



Video: How do these university grads feel about job prospects in 2013?


The Bank of Canada Governor came under fire for his much publicized advice to unemployed and underemployed youth to work for free in order to bolster their résumés and gain valuable experience. In hindsight, Mr. Poloz may well agree that his comments were ill-advised, but let’s not let the controversy overshadow opportunity here. At least the issue gained greater prominence, and for that we can be thankful, because the challenges facing youth just beginning their careers in Canada and across the Western world are real, and so is the pain.

First some facts:

  • The term “youth” in employment studies and statistics refers to those aged 15 to 24.
  • The unemployment rate in Canada for that group has been hovering around 13 per cent since the world’s economic meltdown in 2008.
  • This number doesn’t count underemployed youth, which make up another estimated 27 per cent. These are the people who take contingency jobs to earn something of a living while searching for their career work.

Now some would say that youth unemployment is a natural growing pain for young workers who are looking to cut their career teeth. This position, however, does not appreciate the long-term negative consequences of the situation they face, which extends far beyond immediate pain. The lasting impacts are known as employment scarring and they take the form of a higher likelihood for future underemployment and significantly reduced lifetime earnings compared to more fortunate others who found jobs more quickly.

The reality is a sad one; the longer workers are not put to their productive best, the harder it becomes to ever be, In this way, careers – that is, people – are scarred. So, while it may theoretically feel like young people have the time, and therefore the resilience, to bounce back from early-careers hurdles, the system of work is sadly proving otherwise.

So what can be done for this large group of young workers, truly needing a strategy for their nest steps? Or, put another way, what can you do if you think you may be headed down this path?

First, don’t panic or despair. When facing a career low point, the overwhelming temptation is to frantically look in all directions for a way out and a paycheque. Certainly, this inner fire is a good thing. However, the shotgun approach to finding a job is often note the best tactic.

Instead, focus. Get the clarity you need by asking these questions? What are you truly good at, and what areas should you avoid? Do you like to sell, or rather, to persuade? Can you locate a good answer for just about every question? Are you analytic by nature and training? Do you naturally look for ways to improve processes and outcomes? Do you like helping people? Do you always see the big picture, or are you a wizard at details?

Professional assets are important to note; because in plain language, the fundamental pursuit of a promising career is to become known for getting really good at something that is fulfilling to you and has increasing value for others. So what can you become really good at, and where are you opportunities to demonstrate these qualities?

Any workplace is a huge opportunity to become known for traits, characteristics and actions that are generally valued in many other workplaces. It doesn’t matter if you are in a contingency job or volunteering for an organization. Take it seriously. Deliberately develop your main attributes, become known for them and discuss your career development with others.

Then keep growing through a deliberate strategy known as compounding actions: do something that is in line with your career ideas and tells a story. The act can be almost anything, as long as it makes sense to your career direction and gives you something meaningful to tell someone else (start a blog, volunteer in a significant way, plan an event). Once this first act is done, you use the story to accomplish an even bigger act, thus producing a bigger story and further compound your actions. And so on.

Don’t allow unemployment wounds to leave a scar – plan, get good, get known, tell others and keep growing.

Tyler Waye (@TylerWaye) is a work force strategist, president of IN.FORM and author of the book, I Went to School that Long for This?!

AuthorLorenzo Somma



A bright future in advanced manufacturing

By: George Burton






George Burton, Canadore College president.

So let’s start with a little good news. The advanced manufacturing sector is starved for skilled people.

By investing in people we can ensure that Ontario has the skilled labour force it requires for economic growth. People are looking for the qualifications and technical skills that result in meaningful employment, and employers are looking for these very people. This is where colleges can help. Ontario’s colleges excel at providing students with career training and hands-on experience.

The not so good news is that we have a limited window to satisfy this need before market forces move these opportunities to other jurisdictions. Today’s headlines are brimming with topics about falling oil prices, stubbornly static unemployment rates and global economic gloom. We are left to wonder, is there hope to regain the ground we seem to be losing?

Absolutely, there is. We just need to recognize that we need to quickly shift gears and rethink how we achieve the endgame of meaningful jobs amidst changing players and evolving shifts of global wealth and decision-making.

Statistics show that our provincial and national economies are on a modest upswing from a long and hard recession. But with this recovery is a sobering reality of economic growth projections pegged at very modest levels. Business confidence and the fortitude for risk remain tempered. And, when you consider that legions of baby boomers are set to retire and leave a gaping hole in the skilled workplace, we’re headed for a perfect storm.

In Canada, the manufacturing sector employs almost 2 million people, 800,000 of whom reside right here in Ontario. This industry is critical to Canadian prosperity, which has been in a state of flux since the initial tsunami of off-shoring many traditional manufacturing jobs.

Since that first wave, we have seen some limited repatriation of industries to our shores, but this is the minority. The vast majority of the manufacturing sector has been left to morph itself into lean operations, automation and applying creativity to make new products and processes. Putting innovation to work is a great thing. Whereas many other industries are reporting reduced employment, Ontario’s manufacturing sector added nearly 12,000 jobs last November alone.

Despite these gains, the advanced manufacturing sector remains hungry for skilled labour and we are nowhere near seeing the full potential of what this industry can deliver. There is a significant gap when it comes to finding qualified workers for these jobs, and yet employers are willing to pay. Sector employees earn higher-than-average salaries and secure superior benefits. Not only do they retain their jobs in greater measure compared to their peers, but they are also happier with their career choice.

So why are so many young people having a hard time finding meaningful work? It is partly due to the fact that our overarching economy continues to evolve, and the new norm may actually be a constant churn, but the main issue is the skills mismatch between what employers require what individuals possess.

Now for a little more good news, young people are increasingly looking for the qualifications, professional and technical skills that lead to meaningful employment. So the future is looking brighter, provided we can meet the needs of employers and young people. To be blunt, Ontario needs more college graduates.

Government needs to focus its attention on creating the conditions that foster creativity, innovation and adaptability. The key to success for Ontario is in creating the right conditions, not managing the conditions.

The move to shaping this environment is not to suggest that we abandon structure, discipline and accountability - quite the contrary. The creative, innovative and adaptive processes are the opposite of what many would expect. They are disciplined and focused, and they require the full leveraging of existing resources, and not just in the way we are accustomed. We should embrace the opportunities of this new dynamic and permit colleges to reach their full potential.

However, the stark reality on the training side is not so bright. Compounding our economic challenges is the fact that Ontario colleges continue to receive the lowest per-student funding from both grants and tuition revenues out of any province in Canada. Colleges also receive less from these grants and tuition revenues than the amounts provided to universities and high schools. In real terms, the per-student college operating grants provided today are 16 per cent lower than they were seven years ago. So how can colleges invest to meet the need for skilled workers against this backdrop?

We need the funding for education in the province to be more equitable for the good of all Ontario. We need to encourage and facilitate more robust research partnerships between colleges and businesses to be more competitive. This will lead to the creation of new jobs, especially for smaller companies that don’t have the resources to invest in research and development. We need government to introduce new measures to bolster increased investment by the private sector into college laboratories and shops to support applied research and the skill development of our students – the employees of the future.

It’s time to shift our attitudes. We’re talking about using cutting-edge technology to transform innovation into reality. Opportunities exist in energy, aerospace, engineering, consumer goods industries and more.

Our economy is changing, and so too must we change the way we support it. We can make our mark in the competitive global landscape by investing in advanced manufacturing. I hope you will join me in this leap of faith.


For more information on Hamilton advanced manufacturing training programs check out the ESTATE program

AuthorLorenzo Somma

‘One of my favourite investments': Why The Greenlid wowed all five dragons



“Each week, Financial Post contributor Mary Teresa Bitti revisits CBC’s previous week’s episode of Dragons’ Den. She captures what the cameras didn’t and in the process provides a case study for readers, zeroing in on what pitchers and dragons were thinking and what the challenges for the deal are going forward.

Photo sourced from business.financialpost.com. Kevin Van Paassen for National Post

The pitch: “It was a classic ‘there must be a better way,’ scenario,” said Morgan Wyatt, who appeared on the show with his brother Jackson to pitch The Greenlid, their Toronto-based compostable compost bin business. “Along with every other Canadian who has municipal waste pickup, we were given these beige bins and asked to use compostable bags to collect our organic waste. The bags were always leaving some sort of mess so we started thinking of ways to solve the problem.”

Read the full Financial Post piece on The Greenlid here!

AuthorLorenzo Somma


Posted on December 22, 2014 by Kevin Browne Leave a comment


For the last 3 months the Innovation & Technology committee of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has had a new “technology education” subcommittee work on getting pilot code clubs started in Hamilton-area elementary schools. I want to give a quick update as to what’s happened, and outline how you can become involved.

What’s happened

In September the new technology education subcommittee was formed around the idea of getting code clubs into Hamilton-area elementary schools. A code club will consist of a weekly gathering of children interested in coding at an elementary school, with a mentor going through educational material to teach the children how to code using freely available tools. The idea isn’t new – the UK runs a nation-wide network of coding clubs for example.

The subcommittee has had a few discussions about these code clubs and what they should look like, one discussion was done with about a dozen teachers from the HWDSB and HWCDSB who were interested in the concept. The idea isn’t to make the code club feel like a classroom, but instead like a communal extracurricular activity akin to a sport or hobby, where after some initial help getting the children started with the tools, they are free to create things that interest them individually (e.g. games, art, animation, stories, etc.). Online tools such as Scratch and Khan Academy allow students to fairly easily build projects, save them, work on them at home later, and show their parents and friends what they’ve done.

IEC Hamilton and specifically subcommittee chair Cesare DiDonato (@CesareDiDonato) have been critical to making the connections with the HWDSB and HWCDSB and facilitating this process. We now have about 14 schools across the two boards (and a few other independent schools) interested in hosting a code club. We are now in the process of finding additional mentors and assigning mentors to these clubs.

Getting involved

In order for this to work, we’re going to need to more mentors to volunteer. The expectation for mentors is that they are either a post-secondary student or industry professional who is interested in running a weekly coding club at an elementary school.


– Clubs will be run for 1-2 hours a week, during the daytime, most likely during or around a lunch hour (i.e. not after school).

– Each code club will be started up and run by one mentor. Mentors will be matched to a classroom based on mutual availability and put in touch with a teacher. The grade range could be anywhere from grades 5-8.

– Mentors will initially attend the code club weekly for 4-6 weeks in a row in order to get the students up and running creating projects (i.e. showing them how to use the tool, explaining how different concepts like animation, looping, logic work within the tool).

– After this initial start-up period mentors should not need to attend the code club weekly, but instead at a reduced rate (e.g. monthly) to help keep the code club going (e.g. by showing them something new, checking in on what they’ve been working on, etc.). The concept is for the club to begin to operate semi-independently after the initial start-up period, with students creating projects on their own.

– The vast majority of teachers prefer that mentors use Scratch, at least to start with. But mentors will be free to show the students additional tools (e.g. Khan Academy), as long as they do so in coordination with the teacher.

– The subcommittee will provide the mentors with a “suggested curriculum” of what topics to go through each week using Scratch (e.g. Week 1 – Introduce the tool and how it works using one of x,y,z fun examples, Week 2 – Introduce looping using a,b,c fun examples, etc.).

– The boards are working on launching online forum tools that will allow mentors to communicate with teachers and answer student questions.

– Code clubs are expected to start-up in February-March. Ideally they will run through until June, with discussion about how to continue and expand the program into the next school term.

– The technology education subcommittee will continue to meet monthly as the code clubs launch, to discuss the progress of the clubs and how to proceed after the startup period.

– Mentors will be required to complete a police background check, the turnaround time is about a month and the cost is about $36 including taxes.

We’re trying something new here, which means the details aren’t set in stone and the bugs haven’t been worked out. So for example it may be that some clubs do not proceed after the start-up period and others do proceed through to June. That’s something we’ll be figuring out by trying it out. This pilot process is meant to identify what works and what doesn’t, so we can scale this project next year and into the future.

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, contact Cesare DiDonato to get the process started:

Cesare DiDonato

After you have contacted Cesare to get that process started, you can contact me about the material that will be delivered in the classroom:

Kevin Browne



If you haven’t seen it before, Scratch is worth a quick poke around. It’s a tool developed by MIT researchers to teach children programming concepts.

The new online version of the tool allows students to do everything in the browser, which is excellent for portability, share-ability, accessibility, and continuation of the work outside the classroom (i.e. home). The tool allows students to create animations, games, tell stories, etc – a diverse enough array of activities to provide for different interests. There is also a ton of online help for the tool to assist with in-class learning and help with self-learning – tutorials, videos, examples, etc.

Looking ahead

The subcommittee has talked about other ideas – for example running an “industry day” at McMaster Innovation Park aimed at motivating children to enter the field, with talks by professionals in different areas, where perhaps the students bring what projects they have been working on to show off to one another. The more mentors that engage in this process the more viable ideas like these become.

Another big topic of discussion was improving the official school curriculum. Right now the amount of software development education made available to students varies from school to school in Ontario, with the resources of the school and the background knowledge of the teachers being constraints. Obviously long term it’s critical to have more material integrated into the standard curriculum itself, but in the meantime extracurricular activities can help fill the gap. And to be honest, software development is a passion and a community as much as it is an academic discipline, so extra curricular activities may be as important or more important to getting more kids into coding.

Other discussions have been related to getting Hour of Code started in Hamilton for next year, or getting clubs started in high school.

These discussions are important, but we’re now at the point of moving forward with a pilot project. As a community builds around this subcommittee we can begin to tackle more problems, but it takes time to get things to the implementation stage.

This is not the first time that people have tried to get code clubs started in Hamilton-area schools. The process is difficult for bureaucratic and other reasons, but we have finally cleared enough hurdles to get these clubs started. We’ll hopefully make this process more streamlined in the future, for example by getting the police background checks covered by someone, by more clearly outlining the curriculum, sign-up forms, etc. But for this pilot project we’re going to need some willing people with a “can do” attitude to help us get these clubs off the ground.

I’m personally looking forward to running a code club in the new year, and I’ll be blogging about the experience as much as I can (in a general privacy-respecting sense) to let people know how it goes. I’m so excited!

AuthorLorenzo Somma


The MIGHTY Program's goal is to demonstrate entrepreneurship as a viable career option to the youth of Hamilton.

By Lorenzo Somma
Published September 03, 2014

Last year the Industry Education Council of Hamilton saw its pilot project Mentors In Greater Hamilton Teaching Youth (MIGHTY) Entrepreneurship Program succeed with 22 student participants from four schools in both HWDSB and HWCDSB participate in the program, and 12 graduates.

MIGHTY participants

Thanks to the support of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment and several other community partners, IEC of Hamilton is proud to be providing this amazing program for a second year.

The MIGHTY Program's goal is to demonstrate entrepreneurship as a viable career option to the youth of Hamilton. Using experiential learning and mentorship as the primary mode of instruction, the MIGHTY program will prepare all participants for small business ownership over 14 experiential learning classroom 'Munch and Learn' sessions.

MIGHTY's curriculum is divided into two main phases: Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Applied Entrepreneurship. The first phase will be implemented between September and December of the 2014 school year, while the second will run from January to April of 2015.

MIGHTY has the ambitious goal of challenging over 40 youth from four high schools in both the HWCDSB and the HWDSB, to gain the skills and experience that entrepreneurship brings. Further to that ambition is our goal of matching every participant with a mentor. What follows is the overview of the Program.


For many participants in MIGHTY, the program will be their first experience with the concepts and actions associated with entrepreneurship. It is not merely MIGHTY's goal that each student write a business plan, but that each gain authentic experience with all of the actions, attitudes and knowledge an entrepreneur requires.

MIGHTY assumes that all participants begin with more or less the same entry level information into small business ownership. This requires a strategy to provide a base level and common experience as the foundation of knowledge and experience in which a constructivist climate thrives.

The general outlook of an experiential classroom is: iterative, integrative and engaged.

  • Iterative: Building on what is already know to move subject by subject towards a "Bigger Picture."
  • Integrative: Connecting each subject to the larger, more complex whole, while reflecting and conceptualizing the relationships between subject, each other and the whole.
  • Engaged: Mentees "emotionally" and physically involved in the experience being assimilated.

Learning Climate

The curriculum for MIGHTY has been designed to be iterative, integrated and engaged. The aim is to provide a classroom climate based on constructivist principles, in which participants build on former knowledge and experience.

Student participants are active, engaged and reflective to the experiences presented during each classroom activity. Much like an entrepreneur, the MIGHTY participants are encouraged to manage their own learning, rather than being told what to do and when to do it.

Success in this environment is based on a willingness to reorganize or alter an existing conception of a topic, then apply experiences to the students' own business idea.

The goal is to provide each participant the knowledge and experience necessary to not only draft a basic business plan, but to also take on the skills and mindset required to run their own business as a full time job.

Successful participants will be given the opportunity to put their business into action through one of several small business grant opportunities, most notably the Ontario Summer Company Program (OSCP).


Mentorship plays a critical role in MIGHTY in which mentors engage with students (the mentees) in each session as instructor and/or one to one coaches. In this role Mentors act as guides, cheerleaders and resources for experience, information and support.

Each class opens with a mentor acting as a guide for the given topic, while providing a narrative about their own life journey and how they came to be in front of the class sharing insights on the given topic.

Through a mentor's own story, mentees can make the emotional connection to the subject matter, which is an asset to fully immerse themselves in the activity and the experience to follow.

Mentors follow their personal narrative with an activity designed to provide mentees direct, hands-on experience to the subject matter. Mentees then work with mentors, either one to one or in small groups, to reflect on the experience provided by the activities.

After reflecting, mentees conceptualize what they have learned and apply it to their own business idea. This is experiential learning in action.

MIGHTY is always looking for mentors to share life experiences as instructors or to work one to one with aspiring entrepreneurs. While having a small business background is an asset, it is by no means a requirement.

Any individual wishing to learn more about how to get involved can contact a MIGHTY representative.

Introduction to Entrepreneurship

To set the foundation for the iterative experiences that are to follow, the first two sessions use an activity know as Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) certification.

ICE serves as an introduction to entrepreneurship by providing participants the basic knowledge and experience into what entrepreneurship is, how it is used to solve a problem and how it connects an idea to a marketplace.

During this activity, students are divided into small teams and provided with a list of problems to solve, for which they must design a product that will support the solution. Teams are provided the basic materials of a sheet of paper, scissors, a pen, a few pieces of tape and 1000 "ICE Bucks."

Once their solution is designed, teams send a representative to the "Merchant," whose variety of base materials, which are incredibly overpriced, range from $100 elastic bands and paper clips, to $500 disposable gloves and pie plates.

Teams are encouraged to haggle, trade, barter, sell and beg for base materials with other teams. This hands-on activity results in each team building a product for which they will try to market to fellow classmates between sessions.

The second session has each team presenting their product and marketing attempts to the rest of their peers, which concludes with each student reflecting on the activity as a whole by completing a simple one page business plan.

The ICE activity is used to provide the iterative component, while the following sessions will utilize and allow each participant to integrate new experiences into building a faux business plan.

Engaged students apply each new lesson/experience to become entry level entrepreneurs. The session topic preceding this opening activity, range from basic product and service plans to basic marketing and financial principles.

Applied Entrepreneurship

By the end of the first half of the MIGHTY Program (September to December), participants experience the basics of entrepreneurship.

During the second half of the program (January to April), participants will utilize their newfound experiences and apply them to their own small business idea.

Each session during the second portion of MIGHTY will focus activities on applying the experiences from the first portion, to developing a unique product and/or service. Participants are provided experiences in entry level marketing, finances and operations.


Not only will participants have a completed business plan by the end of MIGHTY, but also the basic knowledge and experiences to take their small business idea and make it small business reality.

MIGHTY encourages all participants to enter their business plans into a variety of programs and grant opportunities, designed to help young people start small businesses. This includes the Ontario Summer Company Program (OSCP) and other programs that will provide the real bucks to their start-ups.

Finally, all participants are invited to a final event that recognizes the dedication and effort of each aspiring entrepreneur.

The MIGHTY PITCH event is designed to emulate the best quality of Lions Lair and Dragon's Den, allowing each MIGHTY graduate to "pitch" their business idea to a panel of (friendly) community judges.

MIGHTY PITCH will be held in April of 2015 at Innovation Park through our MIGHTY partners at Innovation Factory. Top pitches are given an award and resources to help make their small business dreams a reality.

If you would like to provide additional resources or funds to the MIGHTY PITCH you can get involved.


Last year IEC of Hamilton ran the pilot of the MIGHTY Program, which involved 22 participants from 4 schools, 12 final graduates and 3 participants gaining entry into the OSCP. Our MIGHTY PITCH had over 70 guests witness the efforts of 8 amazing presenters.

IEC of Hamilton continues to build on the success of our pilot year. Working with our supporting partners (see below) and community mentors, MIGHTY stands ready to demonstrate entrepreneurship as a viable career choice to the youth of Hamilton.

Whether participants choose to start their business right await and/or add the experiences to their Individual Pathways Planner (IPP), the skills and experiences of entrepreneurship will stay with them the rest of their lives.

The MIGHTY Program is the embodiment of IEC of Hamilton's mission "To foster partnerships among industry, business, education and other community groups in greater Hamilton, that support experiential learning opportunities for all learners."

We are excited to begin our second year and welcome you to become part of MIGHTY's continued success. MIGHTY Partners: Government of OntarioHWDSBHWCDSBInnovation Factory,Hamilton Economic DevelopmentCity of HamiltonTeachers Credit UnionSmall Business Enterprise CentreMcMaster UniversityMohawk CollegeRedeemer University CollegeVolunteer HamiltonYEP Hamilton.

AuthorLorenzo Somma

By: Lorenzo Somma

I found myself sharing what I believe before a group of high school students earlier this autumn.

I was impressed with how far classrooms have come since my own high school graduation in 2001. It seems most class rooms have smart boards and schools are sporting Wi-Fi these days. These new perks aside, I consider myself a Millennial, so being able to speak to this group of younger peers about my experiences in small business was an honour and privilege.

In total I have been able to work with around 40 students across three school sites in the central Hamilton area. Over the last three months, most have gone from a casual interest in entrepreneurship to an eager enthusiasm to get their small business dreams off the ground.

The work has been both educational and rewarding for me, allowing me to adapt my own coaching style to better fit the needs of these entrepreneurial novices.


For the better part of the past four months, I have been working with The Mentors In Greater Hamilton Teaching Youth (M.I.G.H.T.Y.) Entrepreneurship Program, the newest endeavour coming out of the Industry-Education Council of Hamilton (IEC).

This ambitious pilot project aims to demonstrate entrepreneurship as a viable career choice to the youth of central Hamilton. This aim speaks directly to my heart and soul, as to me there is no better way to inspire leadership than through small business ownership.

As any current or past business owner can attest, the skills acquired by entrepreneurs as they make their dreams real are many and all-around useful.

Partners and Supporters

What also struck me as fascinating are the numerous partners and supporters the program has garnered.

Of course any small business program will have partners like the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Enterprise Centre, with additional support by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation.

But what makes M.I.G.H.T.Y. so mighty is the Program's support by both the Public and Catholic School Boards of Hamilton. Entrepreneurship truly does transcend all barriers: as I think most people will agree, business (in one form or another) is a fairly universal human endeavour.

Two Objectives

The end game of M.I.G.H.T.Y. is twofold.

First, all business plans completed by students will be submitted for entry in the Ontario Summer Company Program (OSCP). This most excellent program provides all successful applicants with a modest grant to start their business over the summer of 2014.

That means, instead of working for someone else over the summer, students get a chance to see their business in action, and earn some money along the way.

Second, in partnership with Innovation Factory, M.I.G.H.T.Y. participants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas in a "Lion's Lair" style event held at the end of the program.

Our intention is to have the best business ideas go all the way to the Lion's Lair itself in 2014.

School Alumni Support

What also stuck out for me with this program (as the name suggests) is the focus on mentorship as the primary educational delivery tool.

To this end, the program has also partnered with the Alumni Associations of Mohawk CollegeMcMaster University and Redeemer College.

The goal is to match every student with a one to one mentor. Mentors attend bi-monthly sessions with their mentees, where entrepreneurial guest speakers will share personal insights and experiences.

Mentors will also assist students put together a basic business plan that will get all those ideas out of their heads in onto paper.

Mentorship Sets the Tone

It is this mentorship component that really sets the tone of this whole project. The educational system that many of us had to utilize all through primary, secondary and post-secondary was one of lecture, study, submit and test. The teacher teaches, the student listens and the teacher tests to prove retention.

We all remember it. Some of us thrived in it, some of us floundered in it, and many ended up somewhere in between. The trouble is, some subjects just don't gain the proper traction with this often passive, method of relaying knowledge. I know I didn't.

But mentorship is different. Unlike the "preaching of teaching" in front of a group of thirty or more, mentorship is about one-to-one. Mentorship requires a level of mutual respect and understanding that is just not present in traditional teaching.

Mentorship involves sharing experience, not just information. Mentors have already been where the mentee is and have a better feeling for what is ahead. This gives a mentor a type of empathy that the average teacher cannot provide.

Empathy is one of the most powerful teaching tools, because it necessitates authentic relationship building, personal investment and true engagement. Mentors know they are navigating mentee through concepts that they will not fully grasp or be cognitive to until some point in the future when the pieces all come together. A mentor succeeds by proliferating leadership.

Life-Changing Influence

Reflecting on my own past experience with a mentor, I know how life-changing their influence can be. After college I took a chance and opened my own business (a little known shop in the International Village called Pownz Gaming Centre).

College may have shown me how to write a business plan and what a balance sheet was, but that was no comparison for the insights I gained from my mentor.

Over a two-year period, I had the great fortune of working with a mentor who volunteered her time every month to council, guide and coach. Her experience was invaluable and opened my mind up to a new level of strategic thinking and action.

She knew our business, she knew our goals, and most importantly she knew us. That insight into the business and the people behind the business built a relationship of trust and engagement that cannot be replicated in a text book or in front of a class room, and I am forever grateful for the time I had with my mentor.

No Cookie-Cutter Solutions

Unlike other subjects, there is no real "cookie cutter" solution to small business. Every business, like every person, is unique with its own personality and mindset. Having a mentor is both inspirational and informative: no one will get your business as well as a good mentor, and they will be there to cheer you on the whole way.

It's an invaluable experience for both sides, and the rewards of helping another kindred spirit succeed will be echoed as they do the same in the future.

As the Program develops, we are always looking for new mentors or one off entrepreneurial speakers looking to share their experiences, especially into the New Year. The skills and confidence entrepreneurship can bring to any person are far reaching and life altering.

If you're interested in hearing more you can give us a shout at alex.ramirez@iechamilton.com. IEC and the Mohawk College Alumni Association will also be hosting an Orientation Session for mentors on December 18 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM in the Mohawk College Residence Conference room. Refreshments and light lunch will be provided.

If you're Alumni for any of the mentioned schools, you can also enlist or get more details through your Alumni Association.

On behalf of M.I.G.H.T.Y. and the IEC I would like to thank you for taking the time to read about our program. I hope to bring you more updates as we move forward.

Be Awesome.

AuthorLorenzo Somma