Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield popped by Second Chance Employment Services in Downtown Guelph Wednesday to announce nearly half-a-million dollars in new funding to help support young people looking for work. The money will fund a program at Second Chance to give youth the skills and insight they need to find, and keep, their first job.
“The federally funded ways2work programme provides a level of support that many youth in our community need to reach their goals of getting a job, keeping a job and contributing to the growth of our community,” said Chris Baginski-Hansen, Executive Director of Second Chance Employment Counselling in a media statment. “The community services and local businesses have been great partners in this programme as we all recognize how much energy and passion.”
The new funding is an extension of the Youth Employment Strategy (YES), called the Youth and Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS). The funding announced today comes to $455,182, and it will ensure the continuation of group-based employment skills and work experience development for 154 young people who face barriers to getting into their first job. That can include people of colour, Indigenous people, or people with disabilities.
The funding will cover these specific programs at Second Chance through fall 2020.
“The strategy builds on the success of the Youth Employment Strategy to support the next generation of the middle class. Young Canadians are talented, ambitious and hard-working, but getting a strong start in the workforce can be challenging for many,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, in a statement.
“The Youth Employment and Skills Strategy will make it easier for young people to transition from the classroom to the workforce, including those facing barriers,” she added. “It is part of our plan to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at success.”
At Second Chance, participants in their program will get six weeks of group-based “employability activities,” which includes sessions on time management, communications, goal-setting, team-building, and workplace safety. They will also be given tips on writing cover letters and resumes, and they will also work to achieve their Safe Food Handling, Smart Serve, and First Aid certifications.
While participating in the program, young people will receive an allowance based on the provincial minimum wage, which, in Ontario, is $14 per hour.
Baginski-Hansen said that while the goal of the program is make young people more reactive to the demands of the employment market, it’s important for employers to know that the job seeker market has changed in the last several years as well.
“Unfortunately, is this economy, and in this very, very low unemployment rate, they have to be more diverse, and they have to look at at their hiring practices, they have to look at their their businesses and go ‘Okay, how do we support a brand new group of employees who have learned differently, who need additional supports, who need accommodations, to make this workplace work?'” Baginski-Hansen explained.
“Because of my Chamber of Commerce background, I get regular calls from employers, and what they’re looking for are the soft skills people need to know in terms of what the expectations are in the workforce, and that’s where Second Chance fills that gap and makes sure people know what they’re heading into, what the employers are expecting, and how to prepare the people here to be successful right out of the gate,” added Longfield, who was President and CEO of the Chamber from 2008 to 2015.
Baginski-Hansen went on to say that there may be a different set of expectations for young people entering the job market versus what they’re told about the job market in school. Second Chance is hoping to bridge the gap with support for further job training, or other kinds of support for people who might need childcare, or people who might be suffering from a mental health issue.
After the six-week course, Baginski-Hansen said that there will be an additional 10 weeks of work placement so that the participants get that extra practical experience as well.
“There needs to be a recognition from businesses that if you want to succeed, it may take more training, it may take it may take a different type of training, and teaching people in a different way than what’s traditionally been done as well,” she said.
“I think at the end of the day, everybody wants the new employees to be successful,” added Longfield. “It’s just making sure that they have the right tools, and this is the type of funding that’ll make sure that those tools are put in place before the employee shows up to work.”
It sounds like a lot of work, but Baginski-Hansen said that the federal assistance will make their jobs at Second Chance a little bit easier going forward.
“The staff have worked tirelessly on these types of programs, they’re dedicated to the youth, and we work hard to make sure that we’re seeing results,” she said. “It just feels now I can concentrate on the youth, and what we have to do for them, and not on where the money is coming from. And that’s where our energy should be quite honestly.”