Kate Henry conceived the launch of Empower Us Skills Development Foundation two years ago, prompted by the struggles she and members of her community that are part of Canada’s visible minorities faced in their careers and entrepreneurial journeys.
Leveraging her access to the visible minorities’ communities, Ms. Henry surveyed small business owners, entrepreneurs, job seekers and workers to determine how common her scenario was. Ms. Henry learnt that members of her community faced many institutional barriers when seeking to launch their careers or establish businesses. Visible minority and immigrant entrepreneurs lack equal exposure to foundational business education and skills such as writing business plans, designing business models, cash flow management, budgeting, and marketing strategies. They also face barriers such as public bias, lack of mentorship, limited access to skilled labour and services, networking challenges, lack of representation, and lack of access to funding and other resources.
It was also clear that the talents and capabilities of visible minorities are not maximized in the labour market because they lack the workplace knowledge that will put them on equal footing to effectively operate within workplace, as well as soft career skills will empower them to and grow in their careers access job opportunities in Canada. Not only do many visible minorities with degrees find themselves in low-skilled occupations, but they also earn less than Canadian-born workers, whether they work in a high-skilled or low-skilled occupation. These barriers are often compounded by sense of isolation and lack of confidence that prevent them from accessing and navigating opportunities in the labour market and business marketplace.
From her discussions people in visible minority communities, Ms. Henry identified the need to better equip people in the labour market, entrepreneurs, small business owners with the business education and workplace requirements they need to succeed and thrive in their business and career endeavours.
It is evident from the above that much needs to be done. Empower Us Skill Development Foundation was borne out of an imperative to provide visible minorities and under-represented groups with access to business educational programs, skills development services, and resources to help unlock their business potential, grow their businesses, or succeed in their careers.