There are serious barriers blocking Canada’s future prosperity. We need to erase them.
Like most complex issues, the challenge of youth employment comes down to a troubling paradox. On the one hand, Canada has a surplus of job vacancies. In many key sectors, employers struggle to find the help they need, paying premium wages and even offering cash signing bonuses. Yet the proportion of young people who are out of work and hunting for jobs sits around 10% — double the overall unemployment rate. Among racialized youth, joblessness is even higher by about 5 percentage points.
That’s the situation today. And when we look down the road, the forecasts aren’t good. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development projects that Canada will have the lowest productivity (measured by per capita GDP) among advantaged G20 nations — not at some distant future date, but consistently over the next four decades.
This is a warning sign that needs to be addressed on many fronts, from economic policy to investments in infrastructure and innovation capacity. But a vital piece of the puzzle is ensuring that Canada has a skilled, adaptable workforce ready to embrace future opportunities — and to fill the many positions that are available right now. That means sharpening our focus on youth employment.
The numbers tell the story.
There are close to a million job vacancies in Canada. About 10% are in fields that require STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education. This gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. But there’s another gap that’s equally crucial: 10% of current openings are for support roles across the innovation economy, in areas such as tech sales, product management and customer service. Many are junior and entry-level jobs, well suited to young people just beginning their careers. But even with some 400,000 youth under 30 actively seeking employment, employers can’t find the help they need.
So, what’s the problem?
Too many young people face social and systemic barriers that prevent them from landing meaningful jobs. They need help getting past those barriers — starting with practical guidance on how to find and apply for good positions, prep for interviews and engage with employers. They also need coaching and mentoring to help build up their confidence. And at the same time, employers have a critical role to play in connecting with the promising young talent their organizations need.
That’s why we founded MyStartr.
We’re Canada’s only national, employer-led coalition dedicated to helping young people overcome barriers to employment and kickstart their own futures. Working with employers, governments and community organizations across the country, we create paths to opportunity for the million-plus young Canadians aged 15 to 30 who aren’t currently employed or in education or training.
This is a major challenge that won’t be solved overnight. To point the way toward realistic solutions, we’ve just released Erasing the Barriers: Youth Employment Insights Report 2022. It’s an in-depth look at the many obstacles facing young job seekers, from systemic bias to outmoded hiring practices to mental health issues that have only deepened during the pandemic.
Crucially, our report taps into the insights of young people who are on the frontlines of the challenge — and whose success in finding work will help drive Canada’s economic growth and prosperity.
I’ll be sharing some of these insights in future posts, along with updates on our collaborations with employers and other key players in youth employment. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts, advice and success stories as we work together to erase the barriers and help Canada’s youth build a better tomorrow. Please feel free to connect with your stories through our social media or email us directly.
Angela Simo Brown
Executive Director, MyStartr