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“I never thought I’d end up here” – Young entrepreneurs discover the world of finance and technology on Bay Street

February 13, 2020

The Prince’s Trust Canada Youth Employment team kicked off 2020 with a first-of-its-kind Discover Finance and Technology program last week in downtown Toronto.

Over the four days, 20 young entrepreneurs ages 20-29 from Youth Employment Services’ BizStart program immersed themselves into the world of business, finance and technology with three Bay Street giants: Finastra, KPMG and Royal Bank of Canada.

Through a unique mix of professional development workshops, networking lunches, and collaborative activities, youth received workplace exposure within a corporate environment while learning about the range of jobs available at these companies, and connecting with mentors who have built a career in the sector.

Diving into digital literacy through code

The program kickstarted on a Tuesday morning at Finastra, the world’s third largest fintech company. Youth heared about the importance of digital literacy from Shakir Nathoor, Senior Manager of Client Services. The workshop was followed by an interactive “Hour of Code” where participants learned the basics of coding a Star Wars video game with mentors Asra Baig and Asif Atcha.

“I was always interested in coding because you always hear that it’s needed for the next generation of job opportunities.”

“I was always interested in coding because you always hear that it’s needed for the next generation of job opportunities,” said Denae Ennis, one of the Discover program participants and an up-and-coming videographer.

Participants were then introduced to the ‘pitch competition challenge’, and tasked to work in small groups throughout the week. The challenge presented? Come up with a business idea that would teach youth financial literacy using technology.

For Kardeisha Provo, this was an issue that resonated with her and her peers.

“We understand the situation because some of us were those youth that didn’t have financial literacy – and still don’t, to some extent,” said Kardeisha. “We didn’t come from communities or backgrounds with parents that taught that to us.”

Leveraging the power of networks

On Day 2, participants headed across the street to RBC, where they delved into the world of saving, budgeting, and money management in a workshop led by RBC Future Launch Champion, Sasha Braganza.

Following the workshop, participants took part in an interactives skills mapping game created by RBC that highlights key facts about the current and future workforce, like that 85 percent of jobs are filled via networking.

“I learned the true value of networking, just being able to connect with the business people during lunch to ask them general, small questions. It was such an honour to be here. This was a place I never knew I would end up.”

For Winston Luc, a Discover program participant, it was the networking opportunies that made the Discover program unique and valuable. “I learned the true value of networking, just being able to connect with the business people during lunch to ask them general, small questions. It was such an honour to be here. This was a place I never knew I would end up.”

Leading with a story

On Day 3, participants joined audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG for an afternoon focused on communication and networking, led by Carla Hannemann and Ramesh Parmar. Both shared their personal stories of overcoming challenging obstacles in their life to reach their career goals.

“Their stories were compelling and inspirational. I am going to take what I learned from them throughout my journey,” one participant commented.

Next on the agenda was an engaging personal branding and social media workshop led by the energetic Adam Rodricks, who manages KPMG’s social media strategy. Youth heard about the value of leverging online platforms to elevate their brand.

“It’s something that resonated with me because I run an online writing business company and use LinkedIn to gain leads,” said one program participant, Jessica Bennet. “I realized I have to up my personal branding online, so people see me as an authority in the field.”

Between the information-packed workshops and high-intensity pitch preparation, participants were able to connect with business mentors over lunch each day to share stories and learn more about the opportunities available at the companies.

“Coming from the inner city, we don’t really get exposed to these kinds of environments. Just by being in such amazing facilities and talking to key management, partners, executives on a you-and-me basis, it shifted my mentality on how CSR is run in the companies,” said Luc.

Providing a platform for youth

After three intensive days of training, networking, and collaborating, the Discover group presented their business ideas to a panel of judges from each of the particpating companies at Finastra on Friday afternoon.

“We only had an hour each day to work on our pitches, so it helped us speed up the collaboration process, listening actively, and just making smart decisions in a short amount of time,” said Chelsea Ward.

From a digital currency app designed for high school students to an educational simulation game that teaches young children about saving money, the five groups impressed the room with their solutions to the pitch prompt.

“The competition was really empowering for me because we were able to present to people who do this kind of work.”

“The competition was really empowering for me because we were able to present to people who do this kind of work,” said Kardeisha Provo, whose group came in first place.

To the panel of judges, the collaborative efforts paid off as the five groups captured the room with their innovative ideas and moving story-telling.

“I’m so impressed with this group and the presentations they were able to pull together in a few days,” said Emily Wright from RBC.

A new way of thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility

The Discover model was designed to promote collaboration between businesses and community organizations, and to provide a platform for young people to showcase their talents, insights and abilities.

Ramesh Parmar of KPMG and Anton Adashkevich of Finastra shared how the collaboration between the three companies benefited not only youth, but also the businesses and volunteers involved in the program.

“I think this program was superbly unique from what we have done before because we had multiple partners engaging,” shared Ramesh of KPMG.

“It is exceptionally important because you have connections between companies at multiple levels; not just from the business perspective but also from a social impact perspective.”

For Anton, Finastra’s CSR site lead, the experience allowed him to see a new side to corporate responsibility. “It is a great model of doing business,” he stated. “It is exceptionally important because you have connections between companies at multiple levels; not just from the business perspective but also from a social impact perspective.”

The four days were a testament to the power of collaboration; when supportive businesses, committed community organizations and passionate young people come together around a common cause.

At Prince’s Trust Canada, we believe that each of these groups has something valuable to offer society. Our vision is to continue promoting the exchange of ideas and expertise by bringing the Discover model to even more young people across Canada.

Further reading

Learn more about our youth employment programs that are helping young people prepare for the future of work.

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