First Ever Strait Area Sister-2-Sister Conference

On October 11 the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership at StFX University hosted the first annual Strait area Sister-2-Sister conference. The conference was hosted in response to the need for youth outreach in rural communities and was designed to create a space for young woman in Junior High to post-secondary to participate in culturally relevant leadership and peer-to-peer mentorship. Sister-2-Sister aims to create a sisterhood for Indigenous and African Nova Scotian youth (sisters) by sharing experiences of living as an othered woman through poetry and breakout sessions focused on explored goal setting and healthy relationships. Brenda Gatera from the Centre for Employment Innovation helped facilitate the breakout sessions. The keynote speaker for the event was Rebecca Messay, former Student’s Union President and only black female Student Union president at StFX. The day concluded with youth sharing their experience from the day, keywords shared were empowering, beautiful, connected and fun.

What Are Your Experiences with Mentorship?

On behalf of Labour and Advanced Education, the CEI and its partners are exploring youth employment in Nova Scotia and examining experiences related to attracting, hiring, and retaining youth from both the employer and youth perspectives. One area we are exploring is whether mentorship may be effectively utilized in businesses to better support young employees, and subsequently what benefits and/or barriers exist when attempting to provide mentorship opportunities within the workplace.

For the purposes of our work, the definition of young employees, or youth, encompasses anyone from the ages of 18 to 34. There are separate surveys, one to completed by employers/managers/mentors and one for youth.

Managers and/or business owners (small, medium and large enterprises) from different industries, locations, types of work can complete the Mentorship in the Workplace: Employer and Manager Perspectives survey.

Youth interested in sharing their thoughts and ideas can complete Youth Thoughts: Mentorship at Work.

Nova Scotia Works Diversity and Inclusion Program

The Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI), in partnership with the Nova Scotia Career Development Association, and the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association and Employment Programs (Skills and Learning Branch, Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education), would like to thank the various Nova Scotia Works leaders and their staff for engaging in the first session to co-design the Nova Scotia Works Diversity and Inclusion Program.  Thank you to the Executive Directors who have engaged in the interview process as well, and for those who have not yet been contacted, you will receive a call from Jaime Smith over the next week.

More than 35 persons from within the employment services system, whom identify as a Person of African Descent, came together to create a strong foundation for the new program that will see the hiring of 15 new positions within the employment services systems. The Diversity and Inclusion program will create a community of learning, foster communities of practice, and establish new training opportunities to build diversity and strengthen inclusion in the workplace. This program will also create opportunities for new research and evaluation projects over the next two years.

The CEI would like to thank Angela Bear for her leadership on this project, as well as members of the Advisory Panel, including representatives of Nova Scotia Works:

  • Elizabeth Cooke Sumbu, Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association;
  • Donna Hochman, Career Connections;
  • Robert Ffrench, Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association and Employment Services;
  • Lynda Thomas and Rebekah Skeete, YMCA Employment Centre Halifax/Dartmouth;

Next steps include a second engagement session for People of African Descent within the Nova Scotia Works system will take place on November 28th. The location will be announced in early November. An expression of interest will be launched for this program in January.

Girls Mean Business Helps Teen Entrepreneurs

The Innovation and Employment Centre’s Girls mean Business program held a farewell celebration September 11 in Coady International Institute’s Dennis Hall with approximately 60 attendees. Girls mean Business is an eight-week summer program for girls aged 14 to 19 living in Antigonish interested in entrepreneurship. Participants attended weekly workshops, toured local businesses and had access to mentorship and funding to help them learn important skills in running a business such as design, idea generation, marketing and sales. The celebration also marked the official launch of each of their businesses.

Emma Logan, a StFX BBA alumna (’19), spoke about her entrepreneurial journey as founder of Hearing for All and her experience with the StFX Extension Department. Each Girls mean Business participant prepared and delivered an elevator pitch on their business to the crowd.

Bree MacPherson (age 14) founded Bree’s Bubbles, a handcrafted bath and body care product company. She has created bath bombs, bath salts, and body scrubs that are available in five different scents. Bree made her products available for the first time at the Girls ean Business celebration. Now she is organizing to sell at the Antigonish Farmers’ Market and will have her products available for sale at Happenstance on Main Street, Antigonish.

Nicky Nicholson (age 13) founded Happy Cones, a youth run ice cream parlor located on the Cribbons Point wharf. Over the course of the program, Nicky secured a location for her ice cream stand, purchased equipment for her business (a trailer, freezer, and supplies), developed relations with a Scotsburn supplier, and will have food safety certification before spring 2020. Nicky will have the official opening for Happy Cones in June 2020.

Madison MacDonald (age 17) founded Easy Peasy Recipes, the 2nd edition to the Secrets of Pomquet Home Cookbook. Madison created her business in partnership with the Société acadienne Sainte-Croix as a personal venture and community fundraiser. Her edition includes new recipes developed by community members as well as historical stories about the Pomquet community. To date, she has taken more than 60 pre-orders and generated more than $1,000 in sponsorship revenue.

The program is excited to see how the three participants develop their businesses throughout the year and apply skills learned throughout the summer in everyday life.

Nova Scotians Explore Roots of Antigonish Movement

Centre for Employment Innovation’s Jessica Popp and Jennifer DeCoste, founder of the Life.School.House Cooperative traveled to Denmark to explore the link between Danish folk high schools, the People’s Schools of the Antigonish Movement and Life.School.House’s contemporary folkschools that are starting up all across Nova Scotia.

Grundtvig Folk High School hosted the International Folk High School Summit 2019 and welcomed 125 people from 28 different countries for the event. Attendees included school leaders, practitioners, researchers, and promoters of adult popular education as well as representatives of institutions and countries inspired by the Danish folk high school tradition. This inaugural international summit aimed at creating a space for attendees to learn about the initiatives that are taking place around the globe, while also focusing on establishing greater international cooperation.

The Nova Scotian Life.School.House Cooperative started in March 2018, launching “People’s Schools” at kitchen tables across the province, offering neighbours the opportunity to share skills like carpentry, weaving, cooking, and soap making while reconnecting with neighbors and reducing social isolation in our communities. The Folk High School Summit organizers invited the Life.School.House project   participate in the gathering in Denmark because this is the only barter-based, community development model of folkschooling known to have links to the Danish folkschool tradition.

“We are a scrappy little start up – there were 56 classes in the first year in my living room and now we have 12 different venues in the province offering programming,” DeCoste says. “What we discovered is that while the skill development is important, people are coming to our classes looking for a human connection and a new way to engage in community much like the beginnings of the Antigonish Movement.”

St. Francis Xavier University hosted the first People’s School in 1921 with 50 people taking part in a six-week course featuring an exploration of agriculture, science, economics, literature, and art. By the end of the decade, the university established the Extension Department to continue the work of the Antigonish Movement. Today, the Extension Department and Coady Institute continue to strive towards Coady’s vision of a ‘full and abundant life for all’, focusing their courses, research, engagement, and capacity building efforts on community-led leadership to support resilient communities, inclusive economies, and accountable democracies.

“We believe [at Coady and Extension] that by hosting spaces where people from across the world can come together to share knowledge and collectively make sense of complex global and local issues, we will be able to develop adaptive change strategies that can better equip our communities to address environmental, social, and economic challenges,” Popp says.

“This process alone can help to deepen relationships and build our own capacities towards greater global cooperation. This inaugural summit was a testament to this belief, helping to connect our work with others who are using popular, community-based education as a means for social change, and I am so excited to see where these new relationships will take us!”

Popp and DeCoste were also able to learn more deeply about each of their organization’s historic roots, and the connection between the Antigonish Movement, the StFX Extension Department and the Danish folk high schools movement. Although the start of the Antigonish Movement and that of Danish Folk High Schools arose independently, Popp mentions that she was surprised to learn about the direct connection between the two movements.

“Sometimes you have to go halfway around the world to learn more about yourself, and in this case, your organization,” Popp says. “This is a common phrase we hear at work and very relevant for my experiences in Denmark.”

Go to International Folk High School Summit 2019 to learn more about how folk schools play “a significant role in civic- and democratic citizenship education and are considered “cornerstones in the development of the active civil society and democracy in Denmark.”

Creating Welcoming Communities

The Centre for Employment Innovation at StFX Extension, the Spatializing Care: Intersectional Disability Studies Lab at StFX, and StFX Faculty Development Committee, with support from a Jules Leger Award, collaborated for a two-day conference on Disability, Access, Equity and Education: Creating Welcoming Communities.  More than 100 people from universities, community, government and the community gathered August 26 and 27 at StFX’s Keating Centre to learn about what is happening, and not happening, explore shared assets and resources, nourish a sense of curiosity and collectively imagine the possibilities for collaboration across sectors within rural Atlantic Canada. Thank you to members of the Nova Scotia Works employment services system who participated in the event and to BraveSpace for their graphic interpretation of the dialogue.

Upcoming Events:

The Centre for Employment Innovation is excited to be participating in a number of events throughout the province in the upcoming months. We hope to see you out at the following dates:

November 4 to 5, we are partnering with the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association for Bridging the Gap: the Road to Employment Equity Conference. Registration for the conference is now open.

November 22, the Future Skills Centre–Centre des Compétences futures (FSC-CCF) , the Centre for Employment Innovation at St. Francis Xavier University, Business Higher Education Roundtable and The Conference Board of Canada have partnered to facilitate the Nova Scotia Regional Sounding.  The free event will take place at the Halifax Convention Centre and is an opportunity for all Nova Scotians to share their thoughts and ideas about how the Future Skills Centre can best support the province today for workforce opportunities of the future.

Flexible Labour Pool (FLP) Update

A Flexible Labour Pool (FLP) is an innovative way of addressing challenges in the labour market. Unlike traditional positions where individuals work full-time at a single organization, workers can access employment from multiple organizations on a flexible basis.  Throughout the summer Michael Adiyia, Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI) research coordinator, working in partnership with research intern Jessie Doyle, began research on the project. Since then, Michael continues to collaborate with an advisory committee of stakeholders representing local businesses, organizations, and various government programs.

“During the summer, the CEI team carried out several focus groups and surveys throughout Antigonish,” Michael says. “The goal of the research was to discover if members of the community would be interested in a Flexible Labour Pool (FLP), understand the challenges people experience in getting a job, and explore ways a labour pool could help address these barriers.”

Obtaining perspective from members of the Antigonish community was a necessary component of the FLP project to ensure that the project would properly address the needs of the community. This initial research showed there is strong interest among workers and employers for the further development of this project in Antigonish and surrounding areas. The survey data suggests that for the FLP model to be successful it would need to address barriers that limit job access and worker retention.

As the project continues to develop, equity, diversity, and inclusion are always top of mind. To that end, CEI hopes to discuss this innovative approach to solving challenges in recruiting and retaining workers, while collaboratively helping to build a stronger and more sustainable economy.

Innovation Video Series Needs Your Input

Don’t forget to check out our Innovation Series videos on the StFX Extension Department YouTube Channel. In 2018, the Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI) embarked on a video project that documents innovations and unique employment narratives found within the employment services system of Nova Scotia.