A new summer camp at the University of Victoria is aiming to open doors for indigenous youth in the tech industry.
Founded by Gustavson School of Business grad Kim Cope, Startup Skool engages youth with technology, showing them the possibilities of careers in the tech industry and providing insight from successful local entrepreneurs. While Startup Skool has been around for a few years, this is the first time it has run an indigenous-focused camp.
“It’s for indigenous youth to learn about technology and design and entrepreneurship in a way that really isn’t available in traditional elementary schools and other summer camps,” said Jordyn Hrenyk, a Gustavson grad who works with the business school’s Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs program.
“It’s a way for them to take control of their ideas, take ownership of their ideas, interact with other kids and entrepreneurs.”
Hrenyk said the camp, which is for youth ages eight to 11, tries to introduce attendees to parts of the tech industry that they may not have access to or may not have considered as potential career paths. She said indigenous youth don’t have as many starting points to pursue careers in technology, which is why the Startup Skool has targeted the five-day camp to indigenous communities.
“A lot of the time, indigenous youth don’t really want to move to big cities and are comfortable where they’ve built a community,” she said. “Using entrepreneurship and technology, you can create a business where you are – you don’t have to move to run a technology company.
“What’s really important for me is that students see themselves reflected in the curriculum and see their experiences and their cultures. We want them to see that they don’t have to give up their culture in order to be a financial success.”
Jeff Ward, CEO of Animikii Indigenous Technologies, a Victoria-based web services company that works with indigenous groups across North America, is one of the guest speakers at this year’s camp. He said he’s providing scholarships for several students to attend the camp in an effort to encourage indigenous youth to choose technology and entrepreneurship as a career path.
“Indigenous people were very entrepreneurial by nature,” said Ward. “Many of these youth have opportunities to get involved in trades or health or more traditional career paths, and technology allows them to live where they are, stay in their community, work remote.”
Through guest speakers and activities, Hrenyk said the youth will be given the chance to come up with their own tech-focused ideas. There will also be an off-campus trip to a local tech business to learn directly from professionals in the industry.
“They spend this time learning about business and concepts, and at the end, they get to pitch an idea for a real panel of judges taking them seriously,” said Hrenyk.
The camp has 20 spaces, and while it costs $400 per youth, Hrenyk said they are trying to make as many full and partial scholarships available as possible to those interested. She said they are also looking to fund transportation for some students and provide early drop-offs and late pickups for parents.
The camp runs from July 4 to 8. For more information or to register, visit startupskool.com.