New Brunswick

Need a job? Students encouraged to start their own business this summer

Student entrepreneurs across the province are fighting against unemployment by opening their own innovative businesses.

Many students are forgoing the heartbreak of job applications and deciding to employ themselves

Melissa O'Rourke, the program designer and co-ordinator at the University of New Brunswick’s J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, gives advice to entrepreneurs about their new businesses. (Maria Jose Burgos)

In a province where more than two-thirds of the students who apply for government summer jobs are turned down, a move by young people to employ themselves is picking up momentum. 

Students are fighting back against New Brunswick's unemployment rate of 17 per cent for people between 15 and 24 years old by creating innovative businesses.

CBC will look at three in coming days: a dog transportation service, a robot designed to increase worker engagement and productivity, and a leadership camp for teenagers.

And the government is supporting the entrepreneurship trend.

"We provide 2,000 jobs for summer students and there are 6,500 who apply every year. So there's no doubt that not every student will get a summer student job," said Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault.

To encourage young entrepreneurs, the Labour Department created a three-year pilot project in 2015 called the Student Entrepreneurship Program, which gives loans of up to $3,000 to students who want to start their own businesses during the summer.

When students pay back their loans, they receive one-third of the money back.

Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault said investing in students means the business community continues to grow. (CBC)

In each of the past two years, 10 students received grants to create their new businesses.

Some of these stay as seasonal projects but others take on a life of their own and keep on growing even when summer ends.

The spike in student entrepreneurship is also reflected at universities around the province.

Since 2014, enrolment in entrepreneurship classes at the Technology Management and Entrepreneurship Centre at the University of New Brunswick has increased by 32 per cent, according to Melissa O'Rourke, program manager for the summer institute at the university's J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship

Application numbers on the rise

She said applications for the summer institute at UNB, a program that has provided funding and support for aspiring entrepreneurs since 2014, are also growing.

We have only launched a handful of startups since 1988 up until around 2010. Since 2010 we have launched over 45.- Melissa O'Rourke

"In the first year of the program we received 44 applications from businesses to apply to the program and this year we received 112," said O'Rourke.

The institute includes entrepreneurs from around the Maritimes, not just UNB students.

"We have only launched a handful of startups since 1988 up until around 2010. Since 2010 we have launched over 45."

O'Rourke said this means a lot of job creation in New Brunswick.

"It's empowering people."

Student entrepreneurs from the Summer Institute at the University of New Brunswick work full-time on their new businesses for three months. (Melissa O'Rourke)

The entrepreneurship momentum has also reached Moncton and Saint John.

From 2015 to 2016, the number of applicants at The Entrepreneurship Mentorship Program at the University of Moncton increased from 16 to 29.

Most applicants who enter the program already have their business idea while others join to learn about entrepreneurship and decide whether it's for them.

Michele Lodge is the project co-ordinator for emerging entrepreneurs at Enterprise Saint John, an economic development agency.

Seeing more innovation 

The number of New Brunswick Community College and UNB Saint John students she's worked with grew from about 30 in 2015 to nearly 110 in 2016.

"I have seen a trend towards students whose business ideas are becoming increasingly innovative in the past couple of years," Lodge said.

"This has been really encouraging because innovation is something we are striving to promote within the province and the city."

Arseneault encourages local businesses to be mentors for the new ones.

"At the end of the day, the small and medium-sized businesses are the heart and soul of our province and we need them to continue to grow their business."

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