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Youths discuss what makes a good business at Truro symposium

Teacher Chris Ross enjoyed a friendly but businesslike lunch with his student Jessica Graham, during the formal Business and Youth Symposium in Truro on Nov. 22. Both are from South Colchester Academy.
Teacher Chris Ross enjoyed a friendly but businesslike lunch with his student Jessica Graham, during the formal Business and Youth Symposium in Truro on Nov. 22. Both are from South Colchester Academy. - Fram Dinshaw

Teens discuss business plans, diversity in the workplace during symposium

A panel of six students fielded the same tough questions that many applicants face in job interviews at a symposium in Truro on Thursday.

The students from across Colchester County responded to questions ranging from their skills, education and job training to issues such as workplace diversity at the Nov. 22 Business and Youth Symposium. The event was aimed at opening dialogue between students, teachers and businesses – and some employers saw it as a chance to gain new recruits.

“It gave me other avenues to reach out to young people when we’re seeking to hire someone,” said Catherine MacRae, manager of Truro-based Earth Angels Home Care. “I am really impressed with the young people, they are aspirational, they really have goals and with a lot of people that we have attempted to hire who would be older than them, we’re not always seeing that. These seem to be very motivated young people.”

The six student panelists were Lance Pratt and Zolen Perry from Bible Hill Junior High, Nigel Graham from South Colchester Academy, and Riley LeBlanc, Olivia Gourley and Emilie MacKillop from the École acadienne de Truro.

They were part of a bigger group totaling 55 students, 24 local businesses and 10 teachers. Hosting the Business and Youth Symposium were the Truro and Colchester Partnership for Economic Prosperity, the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce and the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

The Truro and Colchester Partnership for Economic Prosperity is a newly-established regional enterprise network, supported by the towns of Truro and Stewiacke, the Municipality of the County of Colchester, Millbrook First Nation, the local business community through the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce and the Province of Nova Scotia.

“Businesses need to work hard to connect with youth and students in the region,” said Brennan Gillis, the partnership’s CEO. “The next generation of workers is always an important factor and connecting them early is important.”

Connecting young workers with jobs was a hot topic for the six panelists, who faced rounds of questioning from local businesses and teachers.

For panel member Emilie MacKillop, family and friends remain key to finding new job opportunities, a point echoed by her colleague Lance Pratt, who hopes to follow his father into the forestry industry.

A career with Onslow-based Tufts Forestry would allow him to work in his home province, instead of migrating west like many other young Nova Scotians, a trend the province is fighting to reverse.

“They go to different sites around Nova Scotia, mainly down here around Truro, and they cut down the trees and crop them out. They space the trees out, so the planters can go in there. I’m hoping to do that with my dad, because he says it’s a really good job and you get quite a bit of money for it, but it’s hard work,” said Pratt just after the symposium ended.

He felt attending the Business and Youth Symposium forced him to think as a real-life job applicant would. Some exchanges, such as what potential employees can bring to a workplace, are typically asked in actual interviews.

Pratt’s fellow panelist, Nigel Graham, thinks he has the fortitude for success.

“I’m good at doing long jobs and tedious tasks,” said Graham, a Grade 11 student at South Colchester Academy. “I think it would be helpful to build a business or career with those questions that were asked, because you need to know what you believe is good for yourself.”

Another important aspect of workplace culture for Graham was diversity, which he felt allowed a company or organization to grow through hiring people from many different walks of life.

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