On October 9th, Public Works and Government of Canada’s Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) and Small Business BC, in partnership with the Township of Langley and the Fraser Valley Chambers of Commerce, hosted the Fraser Valley Small Business Information Expo, a free trade show that brought together various organizations and government departments that support small businesses.
The Expo, held at the Langley Events Centre and attended by 281 people, provided small businesses a place and time to meet face-to-face with representatives from programs offered by many government and non-profit organizations. A similar annual Expo was held in Vancouver over the last three years with growing attendance each year. We caught up with John Johnstone, whose role is stakeholder engagement with OSME, and Barb Kalashnikov, Industry & Community Relationship Liason with Avia Employment Services to ask them each a few questions and learn more about the event.
John Johnstone, Stakeholder Engagement, OSME, Public Works and Government of Canada
Q: What is the main aim or motivation behind these types of Expo events?
John: These Expo events are an opportunity to coordinate the outreach of government programs that support small and medium enterprises. It allows the public to directly engage program representatives at one central location and hear from expert panels on topics that are of interest, such as Financing & Public Procurement.
Q: What do you think has been achieved from the previous Expo events held in Vancouver?
John: Over the last 4 years, the Vancouver Small Business Information Expo has grown to include government support programs from all levels of government and third party service providers and has attracted over 600 businesses annually. It is wonderful to hear from participants that it was convenient to be able to directly engage with a variety of programs that they would otherwise not have known existed.
Q: If other regions in BC are interested in hosting an expo event, what should they do?
John: At this point in time, OSME, Public Works and Government Services Canada, in partnership with Small Business BC and the Fraser Valley Chambers of Commerce, are piloting this event to provide this type of service delivery to the Fraser Valley. OSME would also be interested in hosting a similar Expo event on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan over the next couple of years. People interested in these types of events can contact OSME via e-mail @ OSME-BPME-PAC@PWGSC.GC.CA
Barb Kalashnikov, Industry & Community Relationship Liason, Avia Employment Services
Q: Why do you think this Expo is an important event for the Fraser Valley?
Barb: Having attended the Vancouver Small Business Information Expo, I was impressed by the level of engagement between the exhibitors and the businesses; I observed meaningful conversations and an exchange of information that provided value to the attendees. My hope was to bring the same value to businesses in the Fraser Valley.
Q: As a representative of a WorkBC Employment Service Centre, what is the main information you would like to offer a small business leader attending the Expo?
Barb: WorkBC is able to support their businesses in a number of ways:
- Prescreening qualified applicants
- Free job posting service
- Database of job-ready candidates
- Information and education regarding diversity in the workplace
- Employment Service Centres will host job fairs and hiring events for employers
- Wage Subsidy Program
Our intent is to build relationships with businesses and community organizations to support the economic development in our community.
Q: Why should representatives from WorkBC Employment Service Centres and other employment programs attend the expo?
Barb: Having a greater understanding of government programs adds to the knowledge that Career Practitioners can share with both their clients and community. For instance, as an exhibitor at the Fraser Valley Small Business Expo, I learned about the National Research Council of Canada and the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). “IRAP supports the innovation activities – and helps build the innovation capacity of Canadian small and medium- sized clients by providing them with advisory services and financial support.” There is also a Youth Employment Strategy component that will support young Canadians (aged 15 – 30) develop skills, obtain career information, find good jobs and stay employed (http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/irap/index.html). This is great information for me to share with my colleagues and the employers in my community.