Port Coquitlam’s S.U.C.C.E.S.S. social services agency will receive $2.7 million from the Canadian government to give 352 young people skills training over three years.
The funding will support the agency’s Chance to Choose: A Youth Employment Program project, aimed at helping vulnerable youth into jobs.
It will provide work experience, job search help and skills training for Indigenous youth, female youth at risk and members of a visible minority, among others.
S.U.C.C.E.S.S. helps vulnerable youth in British Columbia, and funding announced today will help youth overcome barriers to employment! pic.twitter.com/8RLJRGzyIK
— Patty Hajdu (@PattyHajdu) July 7, 2017
The program aims to help youth overcome barriers to employment, and develop the skills and knowledge they need to get a job or further their education.
Speaking to Daily Hive on Friday July 7, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu said vulnerable youth face huge barriers to work.
“Many of these kids have never had a paid job or had very, very precarious employment,” said Hajdu in a phone interview.
“The barriers and challenges they have are dramatically different than a young graduate from university.
“Oftentimes, it is connected to housing, to mental health support, to addiction support.”
A helping hand into work
Hajdu is no stranger to the hardships of young people. Before being elected, she ran the biggest homeless shelter in northwestern Ontario.
She says it’s important to support community organizations, like S.U.C.C.E.S.S., or, in Toronto, Covenant House shelter, for example.
The youth homeless shelter already receives Skills Link funding for Cooking for Life, a training project for young people aged 16 to 24 years old.
“They have trained chefs that work with young people and provide them with basic culinary skills,” said Hajdu.
“Then the program provides them with paid placements in the restaurant industry, which allows them that first paid experience.”
— Covenant House TO (@CovenantHouseTO) March 10, 2017
Hajdu said young people who took part in the program told her it had made them much more confident in themselves.
“That little bit of skills help gives them that leg up into an industry where they don’t need a ton of post-secondary education or even high school education,” said Hajdu.
“But they can get some meaningful employment, which is often the first step into further employment or education.”
The struggle for a summer job
As well as the Skills Link funding, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will also receive $23,000 to hire six young people as part of the Canada Summer Jobs program.
This will allow the students to work as Multicultural Summer Camp Leader, Co-Leader, Youth Assistants and Program Assistant over the summer.
Canada Summer Jobs offers small businesses, non-profits, and public-sector employers a government subsidy to allow them to hire youth for summer jobs.
Those jobs are only open to students aged 15 to 30, who were studying full-time in the previous academic year and will be returning to full-time studies in the fall.
Hajdu said having a summer job on your resume can make all the difference in a world where employers are often looking for candidates with paid experience.
“Youth are sometimes working really hard to get volunteer experience, but employers often don’t see that as valuable as the paid experience,” she said.
“So this paid job helps them move on into other paid opportunities, whether it’s while they’re at school in the next year, or even in the future, in their respective careers.”
Hajdu says it was hard to get work in her own community growing up and she didn’t land a summer job until she was at university, waitressing in the Toronto Islands.
“I struggled actually to find work when I was a young person, especially before college and university,” she said. “It’s challenging for young people and I certainly am aware of that.”
‘I dropped out at 18’
Of course, many students can’t afford to just work for the summer–they need a job all year round to cover their tuition and expenses while studying.
And some young people struggle to even begin post-secondary education due to the expense involved, especially as they get older and have children to consider.
Hajdu said she knows what that struggle is like– she didn’t finish her degree until she was 28 and a single mom of two kids.
“I’m really acutely aware of the challenges of going back to school. I dropped out at 18 from my first university experience. It was really hard to re-enter the academic world.”
To help, Hajdu said, the government is supporting work integrated learning programs, which link employers and post-secondary institutions.
These provide the chance to learn on the job in high-demand fields of the economy; Hajdu says the government is creating 10,000 similar paid learning placements.
“Those are the kinds of experiences that really contribute to gaining very direct experience in your own field as a student, while also paying you for that work experience.”
“It really is a win-win… We’ve heard back from young people that… it really tremendously helped them get the experience they need.”
As well, Hajdu said, the government has expanded eligibility for student loans and grants, and from 2018, people will be able to collect Employment Insurance while studying.
After graduation, Hajdu said she understands the challenges faced by young graduates today and the Career Focus program can help those struggling to find their first job.
Career Focus funds partnerships between universities and institutions that give young people that first paid experience in their field, she said, citing BCIT as an example.
“They have tremendous success, because they’re actually able to really work with employers here,” she said.
“When a young person graduates from their program, they’re actually placed immediately with an employer.”
Hajdu said the government will be “rigorously” evaluating the outcomes for all the young people participating in these programs to see if they’re succeeding as hoped.
Overall though, for Hajdu, it’s all about getting that first, paid job, whether it’s the first employment in your field or your first summer job, whatever that may be.
One of the coolest Canada Summer Jobs she ever saw was in her own riding, she says, when two students got to work on a lighthouse on one of the Great Lakes for the summer.
“With the support that we’re providing… hopefully it’s getting easier and easier for Canadian young people to find those summer jobs.”
“I just think those are the kinds of experiences that get to be life-changing.”