Escalator Jobs for Youth facing Barriers: Companies and Youth Moving up in the World

This study focusses on the young people in in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) of Ontario. It examined an action plan called Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers that was established through a partnership between Government of Ontario and CivicAction to look at ways that businesses can play a stronger role in supporting employment opportunities for youth with barriers

This report is applicable to employers as it addresses the role they can play in connecting youth to their first job. These steps are:

  1. Breaking Down the Barriers

Based on other studies researched, it is known that the roots of unemployment rate for youths are complex. There are four common barriers and they are:

  • Systematic barriers weaken the social networks – young people lack the positive mentors and positive role models who could help them navigate the job market
  • Lack of meaningful opportunities – youths find it challenging to gain the experiences and opportunities to build transferable skills
  • Lack of accessible and affordable transportation – depending on where the youths reside in, it could be challenging for them to reach their workplaces in a timely and inexpensive manner
  • Racism and structural discrimination – youths can be perceived to have negative attitudes, lack of work ethic or lack of motivation to do entry-level jobs

Through acknowledging these barriers, this study realizes that they must support youths so that they get positive experiences in the workplace, realize their full potential and contribute to build more vibrant communities.

  1. Invest Now or Pay Later

Without having businesses involved, youths will not have the opportunities to develop essential skills or personal networks to enter into the workforce, which will be costs to the youths. In addition, there will be costs to the society because if youths are not employed, then we will all bear the societal costs and increased pressure on social supports (health and social assistance, etc.). There will be costs to the employers as there will be labor market skill gaps and companies can’t enjoy a diverse workforce.

  1. Meeting the Needs of Youths and Employers

While the traditional approaches have been focused on government and non-profit organizations, a new approach would be better align employment and training services with demand in the private sector. Within this, it outlines ten action steps that businesses and youths can take to minimize the barriers and increase employment for youth. They need to work in tandem, achieve exciting synergies such as mentoring and training as a source for job candidates.

  1. Taking Action

There are four action steps that can be implemented and they are:

  • Regional Mentorship Initiative: Connecting Youth with Role Models – Mentors play an important role for youths to chart the paths from where they are to where they want to be.
  • Employer-Designed Training & Internships: Closing the Skills Gap – It is vital for employers to work jointly with government, educational institutions, and non-profit agencies to design, deliver and recruit for these programs. A collaborative approach needs to happen to ensure young people are prepared, secured, and ultimately keep their first job.
  • Engaging SMEs: Bringing Job Opportunities into the Open – Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) have a strong need for entry-level positions but they tend to have limited resources in the recruitment and hiring. However, providing them with the support needed will encourage them to employ youths
  • Transparency of the Job Market: Connect the Dots between Supply and Demand – Youths need to know the opportunities and what skills are needed to meet them. Government, industry association, unions, planning boards, private sector companies, youth outreach workers, and agencies need to present clear information to all parties.
  1. Opportunity Knocks

Taking the right actions and broadening their awareness of job opportunities and employer needs will open up social and economic opportunities for youth and employment. These actions will give youth role models to act as their guide to employment, provide focused training, and link them to timely information on employer needs.

  1. The Challenges Ahead

Despite our work with the employers, this report recognizes that we need to remove the other barriers to action on the part of government and community agencies.

  1. Drive to Succeed

Some youths with barriers to employment are resilient and despite the challenges, some have the drive to succeed. Providing more equitable access to opportunities to uncover and unlock their full potential is in everyone’s best interest. To succeed, this work has to connect with a holistic approach to youth employment.

The key message is for all sectors to collaborate together so they can break down the barriers faced by youth – barriers not only to employment, but also to education, health and social inclusion. By working together with a full commitment to tackle unemployment of youth facing barriers, we can all help to achieve a more promising future for the youth, employers, and society.