Local ‘practice firm’ exceeds expectations

Seven months after starting up in Fort Frances, organizers of the local “practice firm” are ready to call it a resounding success.
Called Envision North, the “firm” started here April 1 in an effort to help people find jobs.
“We have 88 percent of people finding employment in good jobs,” operations manager Cathy Emes said recently.
Run by the local campus of Confederation College, the international program gives participants hands-on training as they run a virtual company.
There are roughly 3,500 such “firms” located around the world that trade consumer goods and operate in the virtual business world.
The pilot project here was funded by Human Resources Development Canada for the first year, and so far Emes said the only obstacle has been finding enough people to participate.
Currently, they have seven people at the “firm” but would like to have about a dozen involved in the program at any one time.
“We need more people,” Emes noted. “Ten to 12 weeks is the average staying time. People are not staying for the full 20 weeks because they are getting hired.”
And those leaving the “firm” for employment aren’t just getting part-time jobs at a restaurant or stocking shelves, either.
“They are getting full-time jobs with places such as the hospital, the Academy for Vocational Education and Training, the hearing society,” said Emes.
“These are good full-time jobs with benefits and career options.”
The program already has exceeded expectations.
“I think it is going great. They’re obviously having major successes,” said Anne Renaud, manager of Confederation College’s campus in Fort Frances.
“Participants are finding very good jobs and Confederation College is excited about the good work they are doing,” she added.
“We were set up for a 13-month period to work with 28 participants. We’ve already worked with 25,” noted Emes.
Another surprise has been the average age of participants, which was found to be 42.7 years. “It’s a segment of the market that wasn’t being served,” Emes said.
The program is free for anyone who is unemployed or working less than eight hours a week.
At the “firm,” located at 398 Scott St., people can get hands-on training in all aspects of business, such as sales and marketing, human resources, or purchasing.
Anyone interested in participating in the program can contact Envision North at 274-7628.