Gabriola Chamber helping island businesses and workers get through difficult times

Julie Sperber, Executive Director

Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce

Wednesday, April 21 2021

In response to the pandemic, the Chamber initially assisted local business owners, entrepreneurs and organizations to access supports as they rolled out. We helped businesses navigate changes in restrictions and protocols. By July 2020 we had developed and/or collaborated in 5 locally grown response programs.

Throughout the fall, the Chamber facilitated and supported community funding opportunities. We wrote grants, connected stakeholders, and did research. We created new member benefits to better support local enterprise. While we continue to do all of the above, we are now creating work and training opportunities in the community.

The Gabriola Chamber applied to the Youth Community Partnerships stream of the Community Workforce Response Grant in November 2020. The project provided youth with new skills training and work experience. The funding is provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement. Five Gabriola youth enrolled in online training, via Hootesuite Academy, to study for a certificate in Advanced Social Media Strategy. Hootesuite is a leader in social communications.

Certification will enhance resumes for a wide range of job opportunities. The training portion of the project completed on December 31st, 2020. The youth (aged 19-29) were paired with 6 local businesses or organizations, as clients, to give them the opportunity to practice, share and develop their new skills. Businesses ranged from service industry, trades, artists, and startups, as well as 5 community organizations. Paula Brent, a local marketing professional, came on board to mentor the youth through the client and strategy development process. The youth worked with their clients for 3 months, providing each one with a personalized strategy. The 30 clients came into the project with varying degrees of engagement and understanding of social media. Nearly 90% of them found value in the program and 25/30 businesses and organizations reported that they gained insight into social media as a tool. Overall, clients were pleased with the outcomes and we are encouraged to do more work experience, skills training and opportunity development initiatives. It was a successful pilot.

The next project is funded by the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. It is also administered by Work BC. The Work Experience Opportunities Program will see 9 participants paired with local businesses and organizations to gain work experience. The participants will work in the community in a variety of ways designed to benefit all parties involved. Our members are great mentors who, through the efforts of the Chamber and our funders, help job hunters to gain skills. With participant wages fully subsidized, our members get the opportunity to move ahead with a project or a to-do list while mentoring a participant who needs or wants to gain work experience. “Gabriola Islanders need to know how hard their Chamber has worked to support those on the island who have been hardest hit by the pandemic—youth, small business and entrepreneurs,” said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. “The B.C. government is working hard to create opportunities for youth including the recently announced StrongerBC Future Leaders program with a $45 million investment for thousands of youth to access skills training. This is in addition to more emergency funding for post secondary students, new business grants, $22.5 million in support for the music industry over the next three years through Amplify BC and much more. We know that initiatives to support British Columbians during this difficult time are imperative and the Chamber is tapping into opportunities where possible.”

Both of these initiatives provide Chamber members the opportunity to explore new ideas. In adding the work experience opportunities to our growing list of member benefits, it’s easy to see the value of the annual membership rate of $165. If you would like more information on the Work Experience Opportunity program, please reach out to Julie@gabriolachamber.ca. There is more under way; our initiatives in responding to the challenges of the pandemic and developing member benefits continue - be in the know, learn and grow.