From Social to Employable: Leveraging 21st Century Tools to Broaden Access to Opportunities for Youth
by Tamara Balan
Civic Action, Project Director, Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers
“Young people can’t access work if they don’t know what opportunities exist and what skills are needed to meet them.”
Today, social media isn’t just “social”; it also has the ability to expand young people’s access to new career opportunities. A traditional job search often begins with the creation of a resume or CV and the development of interview skills. But despite developing basic job search skills and tools through career classes or employment centres, many youth are not accessing the job market.
Across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) approximately 83,000 youth (15-24 years old) are not in employment, education or training. Certain groups of youth face additional barriers. According to CivicAction’s Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers - Companies and Youth Moving Up in the World report, some of these barriers are:
All levels of government recognize the magnitude of this challenge and have made strategic investments to improve youth employment outcomes. But government cannot solve this problem alone and needs the help of multi-sector partners - including business - to connect youth to opportunities.
CivicAction, LinkedIn Canada, the Ryerson University Career Centre, and the City of Toronto hosted an event, called YouthConnect, to support young people in developing 21st online professional networking skills. These are essential, as recent studies indicate that 90 percent of employers use online platforms like LinkedIn to recruit and screen applicants1. Online employment platforms have the potential to enhance access to job opportunities for youth facing barriers by enabling recruiters and young job seekers to find each other. For example, small to medium sized enterprises – related to 90% of all private sector jobs – are now able to post jobs where young people can easily find them, online. In the past, these jobs would require specific networks to discover.
In order to address the knowledge, skills and tools gap that young people facing barriers to employment experience, CivicAction held the second annual YouthConnect in July 2016 - a one-day conference that brings together frontline youth-workers for hands-on training on how to teach young people to use 21st century tools that help access and develop career opportunities. Conference participants learned how to professionally present themselves online, create a compelling digital profile, and use the LinkedIn platform to enhance their employment networking capacity. Program partners continue to support YouthConnect participants in this journey.
Since November 2014, YouthConnect has trained nearly 500 front-line youth workers with the capacity to reach approximately 6000 youth and support them to develop the online presentation and social networking skills required to build digital connections that can lead to employment opportunities.
By tapping into the network of youth workers in the Greater Toronto Area, we activate the multiplier effect to reach more young people than would ever be possible through a one-day conference targeted only at youth who face barriers to employment.
Taking advantage of the digital sphere, this year the LinkedIn team created a unique online certification to help track the number of young people reached through YouthConnect, as well as the education and employment outcomes that result. This digital approach will provide a more detailed understanding of the impact that YouthConnect can have.
YouthConnect, which is invested in the potential of using online social employment networks to increase young people’s exposure to job options, facilitate professional connections both on and offline, and democratize access to a wide variety of opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach, is one piece of the youth employment puzzle.
Through Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers, CivicAction is working with employers, government, and community partners to increase pathways to meaningful employment for youth. CivicAction has launched a number of programs which are making a difference in the lives of hundreds of young people across the GTHA, with the potential to inform initiatives across the province. For example, almost 200 youth have graduated from NPower Canada, which trains young people facing barriers and matches them with paid internships in the technology sector. 80% of graduates have entered full-time employment or pursued post-secondary education within a year of graduating.
Youth unemployment is an issue that requires a sustained multi-sectoral approach.
As our economy becomes more globally connected and shifts based on technological innovations, youth job search strategies must shift too. Most young people are comfortable and proficient at using online social networking platforms. It’s time to leverage and expand this base of knowledge, skills and tools in order to broaden access to employment opportunities for more youth.
1 (Reppler (2011). “How Recruiters Use Social Networks for Screen Candidates”. )