If you knew a way to save money while helping a young person clamber over multiple barriers into the job market, would you do it? It sounds like a no brainer!
Québec has been learning how to do it for the last 20 years. Its entreprises d'insertion ("training businesses," loosely translated) are making it happen for thousands of at-risk youth every year. These social enterprises train and graduate to employment or further training people who can't get, can't keep, or have never had a job. The savings in social assistance alone are huge, never mind the other costs you avoid when people realize that they too have something to contribute to society.
Although they started with little but guts and feathers, this training business network has not grown up entirely on its own steam, mind you. A sophisticated and systematic policy and program support structure within Québec's government has been of central importance to the expansion.
Yet as far as I know not one other provincial jurisdiction in Canada has tried to replicate Québec's system. Duh! Seriously, we have a problem here, and it is not because a lot of us Anglophones get giddy at the sight of something written in French. With all the talk of "best practices" that's been pedaled lately, you would think that someone would crack their Larousse and find out how Québec does it.
Well, you can skip that step now, folks. A staff member of Québec's Training Business Collective (CEIQ) has provided a concise explanation (in both languages …) of what exactly their members are doing and how their provincial government helps them do it. It's an ingenious contractual arrangement that covers many of the operating costs of each training business, while encouraging it to supplement its revenue through the sale of quality goods and services – created by the youth-in-training. In short: the training is for real, and the business is, too.
Anyone anywhere who is concerned about people, at-risk youth, and taxpayers has got to like this.
So here is my challenge to community economic development, social enterprise networks, social economy organizations, and everyone else who's devoting themselves to making a difference to those experiencing tough times and closed doors. Take the aforementioned article and start knocking on provincial doors – political and bureaucratic.
I see absolutely no reason why every province, should not be able to replicate these results: save lives, make money, create jobs, prepare people for businesses in the community, and stretch provincial budgets well into the future.
Of course it will take effort and organization. After you read this, start getting organized. It is a modest proposal that could pay off big-time, and should have been addressed years ago. Also, please click on Add New Comment below. Tell me and others what you've done, are doing, or wish you could do to scale out and up a straightforward innovation like this.
Photo “Le Piolet patisserie” courtesy of Le Piolet Restaurant, Loretteville, Québec.
i4 is an ejournal about Inspiring, Innovating, Inciting, and Inventing ways of life and work that permit humanity and the planet to thrive in this century of unprecedented challenges. i4 is a publication of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal.