21 Questions

for 2021

Edil kassim 

Lead Workforce Strategist

1. What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?  

Inquisitive, Nuanced, Expressive

2. What is your most played song right now?

3. What is your educational background? 

- Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Anthropology – University of Toronto
- MSc in Comparative Politics (Nationalism and Ethnicity) – London School of Economics

11. What are some of the implications (positive or negative) you think this will have on youth  workforce development/employment moving forward? 

The abrupt transition to virtual work that many businesses and organizations had to facilitate, hastened by the COVID-19 health crisis, has made an already challenging labour market environment that much more difficult for youth to break into. While youth are largely fluent with technology, working from home consistently is still a challenge for many. Youth stand to lose out on formative in-person workplace experiences and might find it hard to develop and improve their interpersonal skills.

4. Can you speak about the current projects you are working on? 

As a Lead Workforce Strategist at CCYP, I work with my Workforce Strategist colleagues to source employment, training, and education/learning opportunities for youth aged 18-29 across Canada. We use a two-fold approach when sourcing employer, training, and education/learning partnerships – we look for local opportunities that are situated where youth live and we look for national opportunities that youth can pursue virtually/remotely, regardless of where they live. 

12. What jobs are most in-demand at this moment in time? How can youth prepare for these  job opportunities? 

That’s a hard question to answer, but I think youth should prepare themselves for a labour market environment where precarious work is the norm. Although many jobs are contract/short-term, youth should pursue available jobs on their terms. Youth should find jobs that make sense for their career journeys and try to make the most of those short-term roles. Sometimes, those short-term roles can transform into long-term employment!

 5. Why do you think this is important in the Canadian context?  

Labour market landscapes across Canada are diverse, with some areas of the country having more opportunities on offer for youth than others. As Workforce Strategists, we cast our nets wide to aggregate a wide variety of accessible opportunities for youth regardless of where they live.

13. Can you share with us an organization or program that you think youth should be made  aware of when looking for employment?

I think youth should really make use of local employment agencies and that students, in particular, should get familiar with their college/university career centres.

6. What does equal opportunity look like in youth workforce development? 

Earning a livelihood is a basic universal need and every young person ought to be able to secure decent work that enables them to fulfil their basic material needs. Youth should also be able to build skills and competencies in meaningful jobs/careers that interest them and be treated as valuable members of the workforce.

14. What does impact mean to you? 

I think the term impact is often synonymous with the idea of reaching immediate results in short timeframes. I think impact is subjective and can be perceived by people in both the short and long term - even small gestures and procedural ways of working (like attending a routine 1:1 session) can be deemed by some as impactful interventions in their lives.

7. What made you want to get involved in youth workforce development/employment?

I have a longstanding interest in supporting the educational and employment attainment of young people who inhabit the peripheries of society. Increasingly, young people are being shut out of an economy that doesn’t work for them – from employers who often perceive them as not being ‘productive’ enough, to encyclopedic job descriptions for ‘entry level’ work which, in practice, bar youth entry into the labour market. My goal is to work with young people to help them understand both current and future labour market trends so that they can approach their job searches as more informed job seekers

15. Which of your previous work/volunteer experiences have had the most impact on your  work today? 

I think my role as a Youth Employment Campaign Organizer at St. Stephen’s Community House, a multi-service organization in Toronto, helped me to understand youth employment attainment issues from diverse youth, employer, and employment agency vantage points. Being able to understand these aforementioned perspectives enabled me to coordinate and mobilize stakeholders around a campaign to improve youth employment programs offered by Employment Ontario.

8. What do you hope to bring to the youth workforce development/employment sector? How do you hope to move the needle in your work? 

I would like employers to shift their perceptions of young people – to view them as people who can add value to organizations. Youth have talents and assets that set them apart from other groups of workers. Generally, young people can think of ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas and are more keen to take risks and try new things. Furthermore, the changing nature of work positions youth as critical players in shifting labour markets. Youth are largely tech-savvy and have a pulse on trends – competencies that lend well to the move toward virtual work.

9. Given the impact of the pandemic on the job market, what are some helpful techniques  you can share with youth who are looking for work? 

  • Try to be realistic about the jobs that you can find and fill: The move to virtual work doesn’t appear to be temporary, so try to understand regional and national labour markets changes and try to situate yourself and your skills in this new work context.


  • Ask for help with your job search, don’t be afraid to network, and reach out to employment agencies when looking for work: Many people want to help you out and see you win! You just have to be open to working with others. I’ve learned this from experience ☺


  • Do your best to pick yourself up from the emotional dips that come with looking for work: It’s disheartening to not hear from employers after you apply to roles, and the amount of precarious jobs out there might dissuade you from pressing on in your job search. Try your best to take time off from your job search, when you need it, and reach out to friends and loved ones when you feel low. Most importantly, realize that looking for a job and being unemployed is not your identity - job hunting should not engulf your mind or diminish your self-worth.

10. What are some of the major differences between coaching and mentoring in a virtual  setting versus in-person? 

At times, it’s harder to discern and understand visual cues and gestures during virtual coaching sessions - those nuances that animate human conversation are harder to notice when you’re on a web call.

The benefit to virtual coaching, though, is that the virtual nature of sessions make them easily accessible to clients. For example, some clients face barriers in attending multiple in-person sessions because of transportation costs.

16. What previous work/volunteer experience have had the greatest impact on your work  here with CCYP Success Team? 

Again, I’d say my past role as a Youth Employment Campaign Organizer has enabled me to understand diverse youth and employer perspectives on youth workforce development. My past experiences developing strategic and lobbying papers for youth, employer, and government audiences helped me when I was co-developing employer outreach materials as a CCYP Workforce Strategist.

17. Recognizing the importance of building a community network, how has mentorship  supported you throughout your own professional development thus far?  

I don’t think I’ve had mentors in my life, in the traditional sense; however, I’ve had past employers and colleagues send me job opportunities and reach out to me, from time to time, to see how I am and where I’ve landed.

18. Who is an individual/figure that you look up to?  

I think highly of the everyday people I’ve met throughout my working life, whether colleagues or clients, who have lived experiences with displacement and who try to carve out livelihoods in the margins.

19. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

It was important for me to learn that, as human beings, we can control our inputs but not our outcomes. This concept motivates me to put forth my best effort on tasks and not obsess over outcomes I cannot control. 

20. Can you share three fun facts about yourself?

  •  I follow current affairs and enjoy interacting with fellow language learners, on language exchange websites, to discuss their lived realities in their respective countries.

  • -I’m trying to improve my French skills, so I mostly interact with native French speakers from francophone countries.

  • I fancy myself an armchair NBA historian, and enjoy partaking in light-hearted debates about which players are ‘Mount Rushmore worthy’.

21. Can you share a goal you have for 2021? 

In general, I try to work on being resilient – being ok with changes in my life, and with my plans not coming to fruition, while being clear-eyed in my pursuit of future goals.