Water Cooler for July: The 15th is World Youth Skills Day: Why does this matter?


By Melany Hallam

Question: If you had the option, would you train or change jobs to work in a trade? Yes/No/Maybe/I already work in a trade

Did you know that there’s a worldwide youth employment crisis?

According to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO), 74.5 million youth were unemployed in 2013, and 228 million youth were considered poor. Youth unemployment is greatest in developing countries but in first world countries such as Canada, younger workers under 25 years old are also:

  • often unemployed for at least six months of the year
  • taking jobs for which they’re way overqualified, and
  • increasingly working on temporary contracts or positions (not stable employment)

Why should you care?

The ILO is sounding the alarm now because they’ve found that members of the under 25 generation are worse off than the same age group 20 years ago—we’re going backwards! If this is affecting a whole generation, this can’t be anything but bad news for the world economy in general, right? See more on this in an interview with the UN Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi here.

If you’re part of this younger generation, you likely won’t find any of this all that surprising. For example, taking a look at some of the numbers for Powell River, a School District 47 survey of Grade 12 students shows a fairly dramatic decrease in satisfaction that school is preparing them for work. In 2009/10, 54% of students were satisfied, plunging down to 26% satisfaction in 2013/14, according to Powell River’s 2015 Vital Signs Report. So not so optimistic, then.

To raise awareness of the youth unemployment crisis, last year the UN declared July 15th World Youth Skills Day. (Resources, videos, and handouts to help celebrate and motivate change are available here.) The ILO and its 187 member states (including Canada) are also recommending five policies to governments, including promoting:

  1. job creation policies
  2. job-related education and training
  3. help for disadvantaged youth
  4. entrepreneurship and self-employment
  5. labour rights and equal treatment for youth

What can we do locally?

In Powell River, one bright spot appears to be in trades training, where just under half of the enrolled students found local jobs in 2014. Programs are offered locally by SD47 and Vancouver Island University in welding, carpentry, automotive repair, culinary arts, and hairdressing.

If you’re under 29, you might also qualify to get help from provincial training and work experience programs—there’s a list on the BC Centre for Employment Excellence here.

Federal government programs for youth apprenticeships, careers, and education are listed here.

And, of course, Career Link is always here for you with help and advice.

Of the youth that I know personally in Powell River and the Lower Mainland, I wouldn’t say that most of them are all that pessimistic (or doing that badly employment-wise). But then those under 25’s that I know are not that large a sample! What’s been your experience? Leave a comment below—we’d like to hear from you.

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