By Nick Candiotto
The Toronto Sun
Since 1988, the Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres (OAYEC) has focused on helping young people reach both employment and life goals.
Through a network of more than 70 youth employment centres across the province that deliver accessible, high-quality, outcome-based employment services, OAYEC builds futures.
"We need to invest in the youth of today in order to ensure a prosperous tomorrow," says Linda McGrath of the Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres.
"There's a wonderful potential workforce that's not being utilized right now and we have to find a way to change that," says Linda McGrath, project co-ordinator of OAYEC's youth employment job development project.
OAYEC's support of the centres is multi-faceted -- the most obvious being the creation of public awareness about employment issues facing the youth of Ontario.
It is their hope that this awareness will lead business to seek out the services of the employment centres -- and to hire the youth who use them.
"There are so many programs available, from on-the-job training through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU), wage subsidies for qualified youth through HRDC programs to subsidies for employers to train apprentices. Our job is to make employers aware of these services and programs."
In addition, OAYEC conducts research on youth employment issues and offers wide distribution of the results. The employment centres embody OAYEC's commitment to remaining at the forefront of knowledge and practice related to youth employment.
Managers and staff are provided with professional development opportunities aimed at enhancing youth employment services.
"The double cohort is a perfect example. While everybody was focused on the two classes heading into universities and colleges, we concentrated on the two years of people trying to get into the workforce. Nobody has focused on them very much or on the continued effects of the double cohort," McGrath says.
Funded through a combination of federal, provincial and municipal programs, youth employment centres offer job placement services to industry at no cost to the employer.
The centres aim to place young people between ages 15 and 29 into the right job to capitalize on their energy and abilities.
In addition, the success of the centres relies on the active participation of employers at both the local and provincial level -- more than 5,000 companies used the centres' services in 2002 in Toronto alone.
"Between all our agencies, there are thousands of youths available. We need business to invest time, not money. They have to give the youth a chance; they are all taking a risk, but they need to look at the big picture -- it's a necessary risk," McGrath says.
The fact that the country will soon be facing a shortage of skilled tradespeople as baby-boomers begin to retire is not lost on the centres.
With extensive experience working in youth employment, they have a history of successfully matching abilities with an employer's needs. Through these successful matches, the centres hope to ensure today's youth become vital members of tomorrow's workforce.
"Youth employment continues to be very high ... double the national unemployment rate (hovering around 15%) ... it's very high. The real message is that we need to invest in the youth of today in order to ensure a prosperous tomorrow. And it has to be in all youth, not just certain groups."
Over the next 12 weeks, Career Connection will profile young people who have been helped by the youth employment centres in the Toronto area.
For more information about the program itself, or to find the centre in your area, contact OAYEC at 416-323-9557 or visit them on the Web at www.oayec.org
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