One of the most pressing issues Canada faces is persistently high youth unemployment. Though down from a mid-recession peak, it remains significantly higher than its pre-recession December 2007 low. Our most recent analysis (below) shows that youth have not participated fully in the recovery, with worrying implications for our economy.
At the same time, as ICTC has consistently pointed out, over 150,000 jobs will be created in the next five years in the digital economy with consequential impact on GDP if not filled.
Bridging youth who need jobs into digital careers is critical, and that applies for Aboriginal youth and young women. Achieving this is a multi-faceted challenge. Not only do a small number of youth pursue studies that lead to technology-related careers (young women in particular), but Canadian youth’s performance in math and science is on the decline according to recent OECD studies.
Programs such as Focus on IT are at the leading edge of reversing these trends by offering an education combined with a vocational component with the industry, but more needs to be done. In particular, ICTC is a strong advocate for ensuring that the education system meets the needs of employers by teaching kids the skills they’ll need to make a positive contribution to the digital economy. We know from our research and surveys, for example, that 62% of employers cite finding the right talent as one of their critical challenges. Not just tech skills, but business and “soft” skills such as critical thinking and communications competencies are in short supply.
While the solutions require the collaboration of all stakeholders including policymakers and educators, the industry in particular has a vested interest and an important role to play in championing such programs to increase the pool of youth talent ready for a positive contribution to our vibrant digital economy.
116,000 Canadian youth found work in June 2014, bringing youth employment level to 2.5 million. At the pre-recession employment peak in August 2008, 2.96 million youth were employed in Canada, 460,000 higher than at present. Even with the recent job growth, nearly half a million youth jobs lost in Canada since the 2008 financial crisis are yet to be recovered. That too before adjusting for growth in youth population. Given the average labour force participation rate of 65% among youth in Canada since 2008, an estimated 85,000 youth joined the labour force since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, making the job recovery picture even grimmer.
We can work together for a better future for Canada’s youth. I invite your ideas and comments as we find sustainable solutions that work for them.