Youth Employment Stressors

Fri, 27 Sep 2013

Dan Ward
Research Assistant, SFU Public Square
Political Science degree, Concordia University

So, this is the reality our young workers have to face. How can we overcome these issues?

Pietta Wooley recently explored our youth’s “Failure to Launch” in The Tyee, posing several questions, one of which was: “Can Public Service Kickstart Canada’s Young and Jobless?” After highlighting the growing list of problems faced by youth, she cites the US-based AmeriCorps (a reinvention of the Peace Corps) and the recently-defunded Katimavik as important “rite-of-passage” experiences that prepare young adults with the confidence and direction that begets a successful transition to adulthood. Judging by the hundreds of glowing testimonials and considering some of the problems facing young adults today, reinstituting federal funding and expanding the Katimavik program could be public money well spent.  Another option would be increased provincial funding for summer job grants, which encourage employers to hire students through positions they might not otherwise create.

Of course, youth could also just bite the bullet, pack their bags, and move to camps in our productive hinterlands. Our resource sector is booming. In BC, mining in particular is forecasting a demand for 20,000 new workers over the next decade. While a handful of low skill good wage jobs can employ many young adults, jobs requiring some post-secondary certificate or diploma are on the rise.

By the same token, youth could make more financially prudent education choices. Instead of majoring in, say, Russian Literature, how about studying a more perennially in-demand field? Despite our new(ish) high-tech knowledge economy, in Canada the lions share of opportunities for decent wage jobs are currently in resources—and they want skilled tradespeople. Similarly, the high demand for data means math and statistics—areas often ignored by North American youth—can bode students well.

It is also hard to ignore the fact that Canada’s post-secondary education costs have risen sharply. Out of the thirty-four countries in the OECD, Canada has the 5th most expensive tuition. If we are to make post-secondary education more accessible and decrease the heavy weight of student debt, this is something that needs to be addressed. Reversing the last ten years of tax shifts that largely benefited the very wealthy would help socialize this heavy tuition burden that is currently shouldered by those who cannot afford to do so.

A discussion on the youth-employment picture is long overdue in light of high youth unemployment rates. Thankfully, there has been a sharp increase in attention on the topic. Including, the upcoming SFU Public Square Our Future, Our Voice Youth Forum which will consider the future of f BC’s eocnomy. If you are between 16 and 25, we invite you to join us on September 28th for this event!

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