Throughout the month of October the Vital Signs Canada blog will feature guest bloggers who are experts on various aspects of community vitality. Today’s contributor is Dr. Sharon Manson Singer, President and CEO of Canadian Policy Research Networks.
Collaboration between public and private sectors the key to enhancing youth employment
The recent Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) Vital Signs report on youth unemployment highlights that young workers (ages 15-24) are particularly vulnerable when economic times get tough. According to the report, the youth unemployment rate stands at 16.3% — a staggering figure which is expected to grow faster than unemployment in the general population. For those youth lucky enough to be employed, the average work hours per week (a meager 23.4) are the lowest in more than 30 years.
Youth have always been some of the most vulnerable workers in our society and often get left behind in policies and programs designed to enhance job skills, training and employment. Last year, Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) published a series of research papers entitled, Pathways for Youth to the Labour Market which examines how young people in Canada navigate from school to the labour market, and the outcomes associated with taking different paths. Our research found that Canadian youth often take a non-linear route to the labour market, taking time off from their studies or switching educational programs – a reality our government and school training and employment-readiness programs do not always accommodate.
CPRN research confirms that graduates of post-secondary education (university, college and trades programs) are more likely to be employed and earn more than those who only have a high school diploma, high school dropouts, and even those who temporarily take a break from high school (but later graduate). This means that the link between education and employment is critical, and that career development programs and services that can increase educational attainment for Canadian youth, and help ready young people for the jobs that match their interests and skills, are paramount.
Unfortunately we found that career development services for youth in Canada are (with some notable exceptions) largely fragmented, inconsistently funded, piecemeal and difficult for young Canadians to access. We also found that much more needs to be done to encourage an emphasis on a vocational curriculum in high schools, and to enable partnerships between schools (secondary and post-secondary) and employers, and to strengthen co-operative and apprenticeship programs in the public and private sectors.
Our research series highlights opportunities for schools and governments to expand and coordinate resources between regions to enhance learning pathways for Canadian youth, and highlights the need for a national career development strategy for youth or national standards for service quality and provision. But governments are not the only players.
CPRN research also highlights the important place of business and the labour movement in career training and guidance. In our Youth Dialogue on learning and work, more than 140 youth from across Canada told us that they feel they did not have the appropriate information about the array of careers open to them. They called for more, and better, information on both employment and educational opportunities, including entrepreneurial paths and the trades. Canada falls well below other developed countries on employer investment in workplace learning – so there is an opportunity here. The private sector in partnership with schools and governments could work together to help accommodate this need and better prepare Canadian youth for the labour market.
Canada will soon experience a significant inter-generational transfer of employees with a large outflow of baby boomers from the labour force; at the same time, Canada will require a highly skilled labour force to compete in today’s global markets. Increasing resources and attention to targeted youth education, training and employment programs will have lasting benefits for the Canadian economy as a whole. If we are to increase our productivity as a country we cannot afford to let this generation drift off. This is not just about their future, but our future as well.
Dr. Sharon Manson Singer is the President of Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN), a leading non-partisan think tank providing socio-economic policy research and engagement to Canadian leaders. Follow CPRN on http://twitter.com/CanadianPolicy.
To assist youth, and others, to navigate through the labour market, CPRN runs the website JobQuality.ca which is sponsored by governments, labour and the private sector alike, and provides information on the quality of jobs in Canada. Site information includes news articles and reports, interviews and online surveys, as well as job quality indicators on such issues as work-life balance, job security, job design, pay