Unemployment and underemployment is the number one concern I’ve heard from young people during the campaign.
It seems to be getting harder and harder for citizens under 30 to break into the workforce and start their careers. The Grid did a great job showing the challenges young people have in making ends meet in their “Getting by in Toronto” series last year — and the statistics back up the anecdotal evidence. A study from Vital Signs released last October shows youth unemployment in Toronto is now at an all-time high, over 20 per cent, three times the overall unemployment rate.
Job creation isn’t solely the responsibility of municipalities. The Province of Ontario has made a concerted effort to address the issue through its youth jobs strategy. The federal government and the City of Toronto, on the other hand, have not done much of anything. The private sector is another article entirely.
What can the City of Toronto do to create more opportunities for youth? For starters, we can create an internship program to help bring more young people into the Toronto Public Service (TPS).
Take a look at the Ontario Internship Program. The province hires up to 100 recent graduates every year in a number of areas, including communications, policy, human resources, and program and service delivery. It’s a highly competitive process that receives over 4,000 applications a year, which means the province is landing some strong entry-level talent every year.
Highly capable interns, as with youth in general, bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the Ontario Public Service. A similar program would bring equally capable, motivated, and enthusiastic young people into the TPS.
The Ontario Internship Program has also proven to be successful in retaining young employees — with over 75 per cent of interns securing long-term employment with the province after leaving the program.
Toronto does have a couple of programs to help bring young people onboard:
- Career Edge has been used by the City of Toronto to fill short term staffing needs and help recent graduates gain experience in the workplace. However, without set hiring targets and a proven retention rate, it’s unclear how successful this program is in bringing young people into the TPS.
- The Toronto Urban Fellows Program is promising. However, the eligibility requirements are very high; applicants must have graduated from a Master’s or Ph.D. program within the past three years, or a post-graduate certificate in Public Administration. It’s also a small program, with annual cohorts of about 15 participants.
Efforts such as Career Edge and Urban Fellows are not enough to replace the aging workforce and build the Toronto Public Service of tomorrow to reflect and empower the youth that will eventually be at the forefront of citizenry and leadership in Toronto.
The City of Toronto needs to do its part to help young people begin their careers. Whilst youth employment is a multi-dimensional issue that I will spend a lot of time discussing in the months to come, a robust internship program for recent graduates that pays a competitive salary (at least $40,000 per year) would be a good start in addressing youth unemployment and underemployment while bringing new ideas and energy to the Toronto Public Service.