Innovation Saskatchewan is responsible for implementing the province’s innovation priorities and helping grow Saskatchewan’s tech sector. Effective April 2022, this includes operation of the Innovation Place technology parks in Saskatoon and Regina.

Co.Labs Pivots Co.Learn with New Founder Speaker Series

Co.Labs, Saskatchewan’s first technology incubator and tenant at Innovation Place Saskatoon, is a big part of the vibrant tech sector in the province thanks to its streamlined programming and popular events like Co.mmunity nights, Ladies in Tech and Uniting the Prairies conference. Back in March, Co.Labs added another piece to its programming roster: Co.Learn, a five-stream program geared toward 18-29 year old students and post grads focused on creating the next generation of high-potential founders and high-performing tech employees.

"We want young people in Saskatchewan to realize that there's a lot of opportunity here and that they don't need to move away," said Aditi Chadha, Youth Program Lead at Co.Labs and creator of the Co.Learn program. “If we want Saskatchewan to continue on its current trajectory, we need to be able to supply it.”

Co.Learn’s initial five-stream structure focused on immersive networking through internships, volunteering and events, and culminated in two main events: a scholarship program and summit, both aiming to cultivate soft skills. The month-long scholarship program is geared towards building fundamental skills for high-performance founders and the summit is a one-day event teaching practical skills for future tech employees they usually can’t learn in the classroom.

Within Co.Labs programming funnel, it fits at the top, acting as an entry point for young people interested in becoming part of the Saskatchewan tech sector and potentially creating companies that can progress through the Co.Launch, Co.Labs and Co.Lead programs.

But, just as the Co.Learn launched, the pandemic hit, pausing the program while everyone waited to see what would happen with our return to normal. “We came to realize that young people needed a program like Co.Learn now more than ever,” said Chadha. With many job opportunities and internships lost for recent grads and current students, the Co.Labs team knew they needed to find a way to make Co.Learn accessible. So, they did what all great startups do: pivot.

Co.Learn is moving forward with the same goals in mind -- helping youth in Saskatchewan become founders and/or launch their tech careers -- but it is currently taking the form of a four-part webinar panel series the Co.Learn Founder Speaker Series. The series features Saskatchewan-based tech founders speaking about their experiences, demystifying what it takes to be a tech CEO and helping young people see they can create a job rather than searching for one.

The series kicked off on June 16 with Student to CEO featuring the three latest Co.Launch finalists Dawson Norrish, Founder of Arctic Shelf, Rachel Drew, Founder of Cadence and Steven Rau, Co-Founder of FoodRenew -- all of whom are recent grads or current students. The next event, The Tech Trampoline on June 23, is on founders who’ve jumped from startup to scale up, followed by Love is Blind on July 7 on the reality of startup failure and Stop Asking Me How I Got Here on July 14 on the road to success featuring Co.Labs’ own Executive Director Jordan Dutchak and moderated by Chadha.

The initial five-stream Co.Learn system will eventually make a comeback, but likely in a way that is more accessible in our ever-changing reality, says Chadha. In the future, Co.Learn wants to scale to include high school students and different areas within Saskatchewan. As for the summit, don’t fret, because it is on! The summit will take place virtually in Fall 2020.

Register for the Co.Learn Founder Speaker Series.

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- June 19, 2020