Escalator Allows Canadian Business to Reverse a Disturbing Canadian Economic Trend, Youth Unemployment

An astounding ten percent of youth, aged 15-24 in the greater Toronto-Hamilton area are not in education, employment or training.

That’s 83,000 possibly adrift youth with little understanding of what possibilities await them, where best to begin that search, facing barriers associated with racism, poverty, recent immigration, and lack of familial networks or job market know-how others take for granted.

Toronto as a whole has a youth unemployment rate over 20%. The numbers erode further as you factor in race: 28% for black youth, 25% for Aboriginal youth, 24% for South Asians and Chinese youth, and 27% for Korean youth. (Source: Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey)

As of July 14, 2014, the national youth uneployment rate is 13.2%. How does that compare to some of our trading partners? While Germany at 7.8% and Japan at 7.2% fare much better, the US at 13.6%, France at 22.4% and UK at 17.7%, are staring at a lost generation of students and college or university graduates with stifling student debt and little hope in putting to practice their areas of study.

Facing pressure from 1) business segment that abdicated its responsibilities in training and development in the name of cost savings and a just-in-time hire expected to ready-set-go-on-the-first-day, and 2) provinces’ alarm at the rate of unpaid internships for youth seeking practical experience, Ottawa responded with a $40 million internship program earlier this year.

The national internship program for 3000 post-secondary students interested in pursuing a career in STEM and skilled trades, provides for fully-paid internships for a six to twelve month period. The government is counting on business stepping forward and hiring these students once their paid-for training and learning is complete.

In Ontario, Premier Wynne created a Youth Ministry and invested a robust $295 million for a Youth Jobs Strategy.

The fruits of that investment are found in Monday’s announcement by CivicAction, in a highly practical program that connects youth facing barriers with the private sector.

Partnered with LinkedIn and NPower, CivicAction’s Escalator program identifies youth committed to taking a participatory role in seeking job opportunities, and works to reduce the many prohibitive barriers students identified.
Escalator

  • uses a mobile app designed by student for students, to connect youth with real job listings. Rather than the often confusing job listings found in a haphazard manner on countless web sites
  • helps small and medium sized business owners, many of whom have little time or knowledge where to seek potential hires, post their job listings online
  • provides employer-designed training and internships, to close the skills gap businesses suggest prevents hires
  • creates opportunities for mentoring by connecting employers interested in offering mentoring to youth, with social agencies in communities that have actual mentoring programs

NPower previously implemented a 15-week classroom training program incorporating a curriculum designed by industry, and professional skills training by corporate volunteers. Achieving an 80% success rate, the economic impacts for both alumni students and business were tremendous.

It has been reported that each unemployed, adrift youth, bears a societal cost of $1 million. Describing all youth as lazy, unfocused, unknowing and ill-prepared does a disservice to the 80% of 13-25 year olds who want to work for an employer that cares about its social responsibility (2020 Workplace study).

That sounds like an earnest group, one with hopes of contributing the knowledge they acquire in their area of interest, to a business or firm with a social conscience, willing to hire them.

For years Canadian business collectively complained of a skills gap that didn’t stand up to the measure of facts, while others, such as Husky Sunrise, unwisely choose the short-term, at times unsafe temporary foreign worker avenue to fill unfilled roles. I previously wrote a piece on the uncaptured, extensive costs of temporary foreign workers or, for that matter, part-time/contract staff, for small business, or business of any size.

According to an Accenture survey, to create the next generation of jobs, small businesses require governments to ensure relevant incentives are available and accessible. I would suggest that small business could also assist themselves, by ensuring organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, with over 100,000 members, provide greater leadership on building export markets.

Business, through its strict adherence to cost-cutting and increasing shareholder value, pauses or ignores expansion through investments in its operations and employees on a medium and long-term basis. The next generation, ready for their opportunity, remains under-or-unemployed. If the adults, who are accruing record debt, living pay cheque to pay cheque, are having a difficult time, what does the future hold for our youth?

A youth facing increasing tuition fees, to the tune of 13% over the next four years. (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)

Sustainable business profit growth requires, amongst other variables, sales. Sales requires demand. Demand means paying customers. Paying customers require sources of income. Income from sustainable, decent-paying jobs.

Some business leaders get it. Mentorship happens in many corners of a city, in many offices, coffee shops, in schools, on courts, in community centres. I had one, and in recognizing the role he played for me in my business career, I decided early on to serve as one for any youth who showed interest.

Mentoring youth professionally and personally, I hired them through coop placements that led to full time roles upon completion of their education. I established that as a critical expectation of any managers I hired on my team. My managers, in turn, mentored youth hired through coop placements or summer internships, and continued to do so as youth transitioned to entry-level roles. These youth were then expected to mentor the next years crop of coop students.

Youth are a valuable resource to be tapped into. Their curiosity, zest, unaffected potential can benefit any organization. While temporary foreign workers or part-time staff are necessary in some instances, business robs its fiscal health and that of their surrounding communities, of the value youth offer.

In providing accessible mechanisms, the talent pool, training resources, and mentoring avenues, Premier Wynne, and to an extent the federal government, require business, non-profit agencies, and others looking to hire staff to now step forward and engage in Escalator and the federal internship program.

The time for excuses is over. The incentives are on the table. Reach for them and make a difference for youth.

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Published by

Caroline Kalaydjian

In 2005, I left the corporate arena to assist small and medium sized businesses capture their vast potential. I encouraged owners and managers to incorporate agility, creativity, productivity and efficiency throughout their business operations. Today, I marry my concerns for (ethical) business, politics, socio-economics, youth advocacy, poverty, social justice, and geopolitics with my first and longest love, that of writing. Both as a freelance business storyteller, on Business Architect, and in everyday analysis on this site, I hope to shed light on the converging threads that bind society to the every-day impact of decisions made in the public and private realms.

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