Northern Commerce backs non-profit workshops for BIPOC youth

The ecomm agency's funding and expertise will help Lead to Change teach tech skills.

Northern Commerce has forged a new partnership with Greater Toronto Area non-profit Lead to Change that will see the consumer engagement and ecommerce agency contributing financial and mentorship support to programming for at-risk youth.

The partnership came about as a result of Northern’s DEI committee’s annual review and planning, according to Samantha Courneya, senior director of people and culture at the agency, which is based in London, Ont. but also has offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.

At the heart of the issue is that BIPOC are heavily underrepresented in the tech sector, and Northern wants to change that. “BIPOC representation in tech is something that we really wanted to focus on, so we started developing some educational initiatives around that and specifically around Black History Month,” she explains.

In addition to the DEI committee’s efforts, Northern is also planning its annual CSR efforts through its platform, NCares, which partners with a not-for-profit every year “in order to strengthen ties within the community and have a meaningful impact,” says Courneya.

The two initiatives dovetailed nicely into the partnership with Lead to Change, to which Northern has committed $40,000 in funding and staff support for workshops and mentorship. Northern staff will begin leading workshops for the program in the spring and summer, Courneya says.

“In addition to providing financial support to the program, we saw an opportunity to do a more long-term partnership where we could leverage our internal expertise in different areas,” Courneya explains. “Northern staff will be able to host workshops throughout our partnership to educate participants of the program and provide mentorship and guidance along the way.”

The programming will focus around “core components,” says Carl Blackman with Lead to Change, providing at-risk youth with a chance to develop key skills that are important to careers in tech including podcasting and broadcasting, audio recording and engineering, photography and videography and print design.

“Our whole thing is about breaking down the barriers to entry in these careers, especially for Black youth, who aren’t often afforded these opportunities,” he says. “It is really important for us to fill the void for these youth in their formative years who have so much passion and so many ideas but can’t afford to pay for a studio every day or start a clothing line, or who don’t know who they should call.”

“This creates an opportunity to access the equipment and the industry professionals for mentorship. But more importantly, it’s also about creating a safe space,” he adds.