Youth employment matters - Outcomes #10, #11, #12

Ontario's young workforce is a key factor for success in today's global economy. We must work with employers and support our young workers to be safe, resilient, adaptable and highly qualified so they are prepared for employment across many industries, including retail, information technology, skilled trades and medicine.

Youth employment & entrepreneurship matters to young Ontarians:

Studies show that having a job contributes to a young person's sense of identity, connectedness and wellbeing. Employment is also an opportunity to connect with others and develop the skills needed to contribute to societyfootnote 148.

And it's important for Ontario:

Young workers and entrepreneurs contribute to our economy and keep Ontario prosperous. They often lead the way in innovation and creativity when they start new businesses, contribute new ideas and share new perspectives. Ontario's economy benefits from the contributions of talented youth.

Snapshot of youth employment and entrepreneurship in Ontario

The workforce is changing: The demographic reality in Ontario is that our incredible pool of young labour talent - our province's competitive edge and the envy of many developed nations - is shrinking as an overall percentage of Ontario's population. At the same time, Ontario's baby boomers are aging. As our older workers retire, more demand will be placed on youth to bring their skills and talents to the economy.

The Ontario job market is changing too: Getting a job today as a young person involves tackling some unprecedented changes in job markets, infrastructure and technological advances. A secondary school diploma is a baseline necessity for youth in our society. More jobs today require some form of postsecondary education than ever before.

Youth are often the hardest hit in tough economic times: In 2012, Ontario's youth unemployment rate was 16.9%, well above the national average of 14.3%. The unemployment rate for young men was 18.4%. Also, 9.5% of Ontario's youth are not employed, nor are they in training (NEET) or pursuing an educationfootnote 149. Some young people are more at risk of unemployment than others – such as racialized youth, youth with disabilities or young people with a criminal record. These youth often face additional barriers to finding jobs than their peers.

Many are embracing youth entrepreneurship: A European study of attitudes about self-employment found that young people aged 15 to 24 thought they were more likely to start a business in the near future than older adultsfootnote 150. In 2000, 9% of small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada were owned by young entrepreneursfootnote 151 7% of youth-owned enterprises are knowledge-based, compared with 4% of businesses owned by older peoplefootnote 152.

#10 Support youth employment

Youth gain valuable life skills through their job experiences. Research shows employment is a primary platform for young people to improve their self-efficacy, build social skills and networks, gain self-confidence and develop self-regulationfootnote 153. The relationships youth form at work with adults outside their family and school networks help influence their views and future role in society.

Components of supporting employment experiences include:

Helping youth transition to the labour market: When young people work, they learn the skills they need to grow up into effective adult workers. We know young people with prior work experience tend to have a smoother transition into long-term stable employment. Evidence also suggests that the quality of the employment and the amount of time youth are out of work are both important factors in determining success in finding sustained employment. Studies have also shown that taking a positive youth development approach supports success in supporting youth employmentfootnote 154.

Gaining hands-on experience during school through cooperative education or part-time jobs can provide youth with the opportunity to develop the employability and technical skills they need to work in the new economy. A number of additional supports can also help to prepare youth for work. These include career guidance in schools, outreach programs, career mentorship and job-search supports. In addition, employers can support youth employment by recognizing the contributions that young workers can offer and integrating youth into the workforce through first jobs.

Broadening job access for at-risk youth: For some youth, the transition to the labour market brings with it significant challenges. In fact, 46% of Employment Ontario clients are youthfootnote 156. Newcomers, visible minorities, Aboriginal youth and young males tend to have higher rates of unemployment than the general populationfootnote 157. Studies have found that racialized youth have significant gaps related to income and rates of unemploymentfootnote 158, footnote 159. High-school dropouts also have a difficult time finding work. Their unemployment rate is double that of other youth between 20 and 24 yearsfootnote 160. Early labour market attachment is important for youth with disabilities who are joining the labour force for the first time, as they face additional barriers to employment and to accessing the same personal and professional growth opportunities as their peers. Youth employment programs that seek to reach to the most marginalized youth should consider the barriers to employment that these young people may face (for example, requirements for criminal records checks).

Outcome we want:

#10 Ontario youth have opportunities for meaningful employment experiences.

How we can tell:

  • ▲Proportion of students who are enrolled in co-op placements
  • ▲Proportion of youth who are in the labour force
  • ▼Proportion of youth who are not in education, employment or training
  • ▲Proportion of youth who are satisfied with their jobs

#11 Help youth develop skills for work and enterprise

Few young people today move from education directly into stable and long-term employment. And once they do start working, they will likely have a number of jobs in their lifetime and multiple careersfootnote 161. Many young people begin working while still in school. They may shift back and forth between work and study for a period of time. Many will engage in further education or training even after moving into full-time employment, while others may hold a series of jobs before finding a good vocational fit.

Components of supporting the modern workforce include:

Preparing youth to have skills that match Ontario's labour market needs: Emerging technologies impacting the labour market and the fast pace of change mean many of the jobs youth will have in the future do not exist today. Young workers need to be able to adapt to these changing needs by developing flexible, employable skills. The development of these skills can involve making strong connections between school and employment to help young workers focus on building the skills they need for the workplace. Developing these skills also involves employers providing opportunities for young workers to build skills and develop their professional capacities. Recent reports have highlighted the important role of employers in this field and suggested that more can be done to invest in training for young workers footnote 162.

Fostering entrepreneurial skills: Young people can contribute to Ontario's economy and to social challenges by applying their creativity, perseverance, self-confidence and energy as entrepreneurs. Research suggests that entrepreneurship presents an important and growing opportunity for the economic security of youth footnote 163. Strengthening young Ontarians' awareness about the benefits of entrepreneurship has been highlighted as an important element to creating a globally competitive and innovation-based economyfootnote 164. The education and private sectors can play a strong role in developing a culture of entrepreneurship in Ontariofootnote 165. Internships, experiential learning and co-op programs with the private sector can provide young people with crucial hands-on experience in being their own boss at an early age. In addition, supports for young entrepreneurs can help ensure that youth-led businesses and organizations are successful in the long-term.

Outcome we want:

#11 Ontario youth have the skills and resources needed to develop a successful career or business.

How we can tell:

  • ▲Proportion of youth who are self-employed

#12 Ensure youth work in safe and supportive environments

Youth thrive when they are safe and supported at work. In order for young Ontarians to develop successful careers, they need to be provided with opportunities in the workplace that are safe and allow them to learn. Workplace safety is especially important for youth.

Creating safe, supportive work environments for young people involves:

Paying extra attention to the safety of young workers: Research shows that youth may face more risks at work than older adults. Young male workers are more likely to be injured on the job. Studies have found this to be associated with the fact that they are more likely to be in high risk occupations and/or jobs involving a relatively high degree of physical effortfootnote 167. Research shows that being new to a job increases the risk of injuryfootnote 168. Youth often have short-term employment or multiple part-time jobs, so they're often new on the job and have increased risk. In addition, we know that the power structure within workplaces may dismiss young workers' concerns or lead teens to remain silent about their working conditionsfootnote 169.

Young workers out of school with no diploma are three times more likely to be injured than those who have some postsecondary education, regardless of age, type of shift or hours of workfootnote 170.

Informing young people about their rights and responsibilities at work: A safe and supportive work environment is one where young people know about their rights and responsibilities and are treated in a respectful, inclusive way. Young workers may need additional space and encouragement to raise concerns they have about conditions in the workplace. Providing thorough and effective on-the-job training, instruction and supervision protects the health and safety of young workers. By providing a safe and supported work environment, employers allow youth to learn their rights and responsibilities as employees. Supportive environments also involve young workers being provided with opportunities to learn about how to resolve conflicts and negotiate – skills that will make them more career-ready in the future.

Outcome we want:

#12 Ontario youth are safe and supported at work.

How we can tell:

  • ▼Proportion of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims that are for youth employees

What is Ontario doing to support these outcomes?

The Government of Ontario has a number of initiatives that support youth employment and entrepreneurship:

Stepping Up: Supporting Our Youth

Case study

Supporting Our Youth (SOY) is a dynamic community development organization in downtown Toronto. Its mission is to create opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and two-spirited youth and adults to build community together. SOY believes that our whole community benefits from greater investment in youth.

SOY develops activities with young people that build skills and capacities. It provides supports and increases access to adult mentoring. It is dedicated to all the young people who are seeking acceptance, appreciation and the place they deserve in the world.

Javier’s Story...

I came to this country, with no word of English and no family. All I had was a head full of questions about who I was - and nowhere to go but an empty room. As an immigrant gay man, I thought no one would be able to answer my questions. One day, I found an email address for an organization called SOY that said it would be able to help me. I decided to give it a try. I never thought that my simple (and almost hopeless) email would introduce me to people whose goal ever since then has been to make my life better.

Today, they are my friends, and maybe the closest thing I have to a family. Thanks to all the SOY programs, I now have a place to express myself. I have met a person whose sincere intention is to be my friend – he's my mentor now. I also have a place to live, thanks to SOY's housing program. And even more important, today I feel I'm ready to fight on my own. This would never have been possible if it hadn't been for SOY.

When I think about SOY, many words come to my mind: Effort. Hope. Life. And love. But none of them seem enough to describe the amazing things that the people in SOY are doing for our community.