A community effort to fight youth unemployment

  • Life 4 Youth Program

Caledon Enterprise
By Danielle Marr

There is no denying that the job market is tough for youth today.

According to the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, the youth unemployment rate has been more than 10 per cent higher than the adult unemployment rate in Ontario in recent years.

While youth unemployment rates are normally higher than adult unemployment rates, during the post-2008 period, the gap in Ontario has exceeded the youth-to-adult unemployment gap of both the early-1990s and the 1981-82 recessions.

This is an issue that the community of Caledon has had to face along with the rest of the province and Caledon Community Services (CCS) want to help.

LIFE for Youth is a program that was launched by CCS in July of 2008. It has helped almost 200 local youth find work within the community while also providing local businesses with employees whose wages are covered by the program funding during their work placements.

Mary Falcone, the LIFE for Youth Manager explained why the program got started in the first place and the successes and challenges that they have had since.

“I was working at the employment resource centre and realized that youth were coming in and out, doing a lot of job hopping with no stability,” said Falcone. “I would help these kids get a job and then three months later they would be back looking for work again and we didn’t know what was going on.”

And so, LIFE for Youth was born – a program that provides supportive job coaching and helps youth in the community gain the ability to successfully figure out what their marketable skills are and then apply them in the workplace through a series of job coaching workshops and work placements.

They also assist students in post-secondary education on the hunt for temporary employment in the summer months.

The only issue that they have been facing with the program since it began is that the way in which the funding is provided makes it difficult to prepare for each session.

“We are funded federally so whenever we get approval to go ahead with the next session, everything happens very quickly and it’s not always in the same time frame each year. We can’t publicize it because we don’t know when it can start. It’s very timeline sensitive,” Falcone explained.

Katie Lehman is a Bolton resident who reached out to CCS originally to get some help with anxiety.

“I went to CCS because I was struggling and I couldn’t find a job and they do counseling there. So, they gave me some tips on how to deal with stress in the workplace and to help get me out of my comfort zone.”

Falcone and the other organizers at CCS felt that Lehman was a great candidate for the LIFE for Youth program and so she enrolled immediately.

“They ended up enrolling me in LIFE for Youth and then at the end of it I did a three month placement at my job that I have now,” Lehman explained.

“After my placement, my employers told me that I was very professional and that I took my job seriously so they ended up hiring me and I have been there for a year and a half – I love it.”

The program works directly with employers in the community such as King Nursing Home, Mayfield Recreation Complex, Oliver’s Dog Grooming, Shoppers Drug Mart, Staples and more.

CCS was approved to run another two sessions and is currently looking for youth candidates to enroll in the program starting on June 9. For more information about the LIFE for Youth program, visit ccs4u.org/life-4-youth/ or speak to Falcone directly at the centre during operating business hours.

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