Youth employment gets boost
By Paul-Mark Rendon
The federal government announced it will renew funding to the Youth Employment Strategy for another three years, which could bring a windfall for students.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien made the announcement on Monday that effective April of next year, the federal government will commit $465 million over three years, renewing the current strategy which would have expired in March.
The new plan is good news for Canada's youth, said Joanne Lamothe, director general of youth initiatives for Human Resources Development Canada. "It's basically an extension of the old plan, with $465 million in terms of renewal or $155 million a year over the next three years."
She explained the main objectives of the plan target full-time work experience, summer employment and internships, while providing improved access to labour market information.
Lamothe added the money for the renewal will come from general revenue. Employment insurance levels will not be affected, she said.
According to Daniele Gauvin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Training, Ontario Premier Mike Harris downplayed the announcement next to what Ontario contributes to such programs.
"[Mike Harris] did mention that he understands it is actually an extension of the old plan, but it doesn't change the fact that Ontario already spends twice as much as the federal government on these programs," Gauvin said.
She added Harris has yet to comment on the details of the funding renewal.
Figures from Statistics Canada show the urgency of the youth unemployment problem in Canada. At 14.5 per cent, the youth unemployment rate is nearly double the adult rate of eight per cent.
In Ontario, Statistics Canada reported slightly lower youth unemployment rates. The youth unemployment rate in Ontario is 14.1 per cent, but still more than double the adult unemployment rate, which is presently at 6.9 per cent.
Graham Donald, executive director for the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers, said he believes the problem of youth unemployment is extensive and urged students to take a proactive approach in searching for jobs. "We're educating students to work on [searching for jobs] while still in school."
Donald described the difficulty students encounter if they do not have sufficient experience. "Employers are not that willing to give [students] training, but the public is not willing to let business in the classroom."
Christina Lederman, manager of financial aid services at Western, said while she was unfamiliar with how the extension of the youth unemployment strategy would impact students, Western's work/study program aims to offset students' financial costs.
She added Western also considers students' aspirations after graduation. "The focus is putting education dollars in the student's pocket, but we always allow the student to choose the line of work they want."