The Saint John Community Loan Fund, a non-profit lending organization, is offering a new program designed to get more women involved in the business end of the energy sector.

The Saint John Community Loan Fund is the first and only community loan fund in Atlantic Canada, joining approximately 40 other microcredit organizations across the country. All risk capital comes from community investors and donors.

The program, NEXT Inc., is focused on helping women develop the skills and training needed to become home energy auditors. The new program was created by the Loan Fund in partnership with the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

“We are on a mission to find women to join NEXT Inc., our new social enterprise,” says Diane Snelgrove, enterprise development officer with the Saint John Community Loan Fund.

A dozen women will be selected for the online, six-month program, beginning this month.

The course will have four phases. Phase one is the Enterprising Women program, which is focused on entrepreneurship. Phases two and three prepare participants for the NRCan home energy auditor national exams. The fourth phase is hands-on field work with mentors.

The 12 women will also receive mentorship from industry leaders with Blue House Energy and EnerCheck. Once the students graduate, they will become home energy auditors and Next Inc. employees. Profits from the business will go back into the program.

The Loan Fund has grown from a micro-lending organization to one that uses training, savings and real-estate development to help people and organizations achieve self reliance.