The Training Business Challenge

Mike Lewis's picture

If you knew a way to save money while helping a young person clamber over multiple barriers into the job market, would you do it? It sounds like a no brainer!

Québec has been learning how to do it for the last 20 years. Its entreprises d'insertion ("training businesses," loosely translated) are making it happen for thousands of at-risk youth every year. These social enterprises train and graduate to employment or further training people who can't get, can't keep, or have never had a job. The savings in social assistance alone are huge, never mind the other costs you avoid when people realize that they too have something to contribute to society.

Although they started with little but guts and feathers, this training business network has not grown up entirely on its own steam, mind you. A sophisticated and systematic policy and program support structure within Québec's government has been of central importance to the expansion.

Yet as far as I know not one other provincial jurisdiction in Canada has tried to replicate Québec's system. Duh! Seriously, we have a problem here, and it is not because a lot of us Anglophones get giddy at the sight of something written in French. With all the talk of "best practices" that's been pedaled lately, you would think that someone would crack their Larousse and find out how Québec does it.

Well, you can skip that step now, folks. A staff member of Québec's Training Business Collective (CEIQ) has provided a concise explanation (in both languages …) of what exactly their members are doing and how their provincial government helps them do it. It's an ingenious contractual arrangement that covers many of the operating costs of each training business, while encouraging it to supplement its revenue through the sale of quality goods and services – created by the youth-in-training. In short: the training is for real, and the business is, too.

Anyone anywhere who is concerned about people, at-risk youth, and taxpayers has got to like this.

So here is my challenge to community economic development, social enterprise networks, social economy organizations, and everyone else who's devoting themselves to making a difference to those experiencing tough times and closed doors. Take the aforementioned article and start knocking on provincial doors – political and bureaucratic.

I see absolutely no reason why every province, should not be able to replicate these results: save lives, make money, create jobs, prepare people for businesses in the community, and stretch provincial budgets well into the future.

Of course it will take effort and organization. After you read this, start getting organized. It is a modest proposal that could pay off big-time, and should have been addressed years ago. Also, please click on Add New Comment below. Tell me and others what you've done, are doing, or wish you could do to scale out and up a straightforward innovation like this.

Photo “Le Piolet patisserie” courtesy of Le Piolet Restaurant, Loretteville, Québec.

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i4 is an ejournal about Inspiring, Innovating, Inciting, and Inventing ways of life and work that permit humanity and the planet to thrive in this century of unprecedented challenges. i4 is a publication of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal.



My Dear Friend Mike,

We thrive on challenges, but more importantly finding solutions, and overcoming challenges.

While the Training Business challenge in Nova Scotia is different from the Quebec experience, in many ways in it is similar.

18 months ago we (the Nova Scotia Co-operative and Credit Union sector) launched a training and employment initiative called Target 100. We (the sector) had labour shortages that we needed to address and the Department of Community Services (DCS) had people on government's payroll (otherwise known as welfare), that needed employment. We committed to to recruiting, training, and hiring 100 DCS clients over a four year peiod - 25 people a year.

I am proud to say that in our first 18 months, we trained and hired 32 people in our local co-operatives and credit unions, and have another 14 in training and internships. These 32 represent an annual payroll of over $700,000, have a good wage, benefits, are now tax payers. But most importantly, they have become self confident, productive and contibuting members of our communities.

This is a good news story in every respect!

I would be remiss if I did not mention, that in a recent independent, objective review of our programs, it was determined that it costs the Province of Nova Scotia $236 for every job created through their partnership with the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council, versus, as one example, a cost of more than $15,000 per job created through a partnership with RIM.



Dear Diane. The innovation of the credit union and co-op council is excellent.

It is clearly a different model and the results are excellent, for the credit union sector, for the people training and employed and for the taxpayer. Congratulations.

With this track record and your capacity to get to senior civil servant.s and politicians, I would still encourage you to send the article to key people in government and to other social economy leaders in Nova Scotia. It could be an low effort win and unleash some energy across the province to build some additional means to meet the needs of at risk youth. Thanks again. I think a little blog on \Target 100 would be great to feature on i-4 site

I like both ideas. We are developing a framework for social enterprise devt in NB. I was just at FIESS and saw this presentation. Pretty compelling. We will be taking the challenge here. And we will be looking at this and the NS experiences with the hopes of having something in place within 12 months. Given that we are sandwiched between two provinces creating these new opportunities for social and economic inclusion, there is no excuse not to have something similar here in NB. Thanks for always pushing us further. Seth


Its old news - 30 years old in Toronto......

What is new is government strategically supporting it.

So the real question is how do you change the culture of a Province, cause we on the ground get it.

Peter Frampton

The Learning Enrichment Foundation

well in Ontario, we do have some similar initiatives here and there... but like you wrote Peter, how would we change the culture of our provincial government...  well we need to get together... we need to propose as a collective... a strong voice... show some experiences, the impacts, ...and the number of jobs created wihout infrastructure and sustainable support to do so... 

we need to get our act together... 

a good policy in place will generate good program... and some sustainable investment... 

In Ontario, is this something the Ontario Social Economy Roundtable could mobilize around?

I will bring this to CCEDNet's policy council and see if there is appetite for outreach at the provincial level across the country. 

The training business approach is tested and has proven itself over many years, what is new is the ROI study from this year and some key materials in English.  Thanks CCCR for pushing this along!

Well, all I can say is way to go guys and gals. David Lepage has also said he will check it out with the Premiers council in B.C. and take it to the Social Enterprise Council Nationally. Why not have CCEDNet create a forum to push this one along and enlist some help from Quebec to be a point of techical assistance for other provinces. Maybe the Chantier could help encourage Quebec's cooperation if necessary


we do have as well the National Coalition involving CCEDNET, Chantier, CCA, CCCM, research, SECC, etc... who can address this and look at a strategic way to make it happen!!! At the same time, they are so many initiatives who should be reproduced across the country - they would create decent jobs, revitalize local economy, creat community wealth...  on doit travailler ensemble!!! we need to act together!!!  i have been raising that for years... Well we have to admit we are getting there, surely and slowly... Let's continue all together...

also each and everyone of us could approach our municipality... send the article to our MP, Mayor, etc...

the article is written in French and translated in English... so we could circulate it to all our mailing list... and have more and more people understand this initiative and the power to support its growth throughout the country...

let's share to many...