Offering wildfire recovery programming has kept Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin hopping, said manager Karen Eden.
“It’s been a busy couple of years,” Eden told the Tribune.
A business ambassador program started in January 2018 saw the hiring of nine people that went out to work one-on-one with businesses, not-for-profits and Indigenous organizations affected by the wildfires.
“We’ve touched over 4,700 and that ranges from Lillooet and out to Bella Coola, 82 communities in all. We helped them fill out the paper work to access things such as agricultural programs and Red Cross funding that was available.”
About June of 2018, they launched the second phase of funding due to grants from Western Economic Diversification, Northern Development Initiative Trust, Canadian Red Cross community funding and the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition to put on workshops.
“Through the whole region, as of the end of October 2019, we offered over 220 workshops with over 2,400 attendees and we are still doing a few more.”
Self-directed training was also available to business owners to train existing or new employees for anything from certificate training to leadership to HR management. Through the program about $1.1 million of funding was used to reimburse businesses for training and business coaching.
“That program is now over, but in total 406 businesses applied for and received funding and about 1,100 applications that have come in to date.”
With the self-directed training businesses determine what kind of training or certification they were lacking or needed to keep their business sustainable or pivot it into the new world.
“We’ve tried not to use the word recovery anymore because it is over used for one and we’ve got to move forward,” Eden said.
“The last big workshop we did we brought in Mo Douglas to facilitate. It was called Change Happens and was held on Nov. 7 at the Pioneer Complex.”
Feedback about the workshop was that it was tremendous and positive, she added.
There was a panel comprised of local business people and the workshop was aimed at looking for opportunities going forward, rather than focusing on the downside of things, Eden said.
Douglas also gave similar workshops in Quesnel and Cache Creek.
During the last two years, there has also been an effort by Community Futures to offer workshops through webinars or online group learning, but the challenge has been reaching more remote communities that have a lack of connectivity in the region.
“Connectivity came up over and over again as a challenge because of the vast geography,” Eden said.
“When you are the sole proprietor and trying to get away to attend a workshop that can be difficult.”