Breaking Down Barriers to Youth Employment

By: Natalie Chu, Youth Council 2021/2022



In this blog post, I talked to CCYP Youth Council members Paige Percy and Aman Basra about their experiences and recommendations for navigating the barriers to youth employment.

When asked about some of the barriers that are affecting youth employment, the first thing that came to Paige’s mind was transportation. Growing up and residing in a small-town located in Ontario, where the nearest grocery store is 15 minutes away, access to opportunities and gaining good job experience are harder to come by. Paige recalls a job offer that she had to turn down because the time and money spent on transportation outweighed her compensation for 3-4 hour shifts. She also notes that good internet is often hit or miss within her neighbourhood, which makes remote work more difficult.

Additionally, school plays a major role in the youth workforce ecosystem since its proximity to youth can help make programs, opportunities, and resources for their career trajectory more accessible. For instance, with a couple hours a day spent on traveling to and from school, Paige noted that if an activity such as a sport, club or society is not offered at the school, it was harder for her to do. Moving forward, Paige stresses the importance of broadening the Canadian focus to be more inclusive of youth from rural communities.

From Paige’s perspective, a little can go a long way in making opportunities more inclusive of youth living in rural communities. Access and compensation for opportunities should come in a way that is equitable and feasible for youth living in rural communities (e.g. an Uber Eats credit may not be usable to everyone wanting to attend an online event). Compensating for the extra costs of transportation or the use of data when internet access is unavailable can help incentivize youth from rural communities to participate in events and opportunities..

Improving access to opportunities may not always involve overcoming a physical barrier. It can also include closing the knowledge gap by better informing youth of career and education opportunities. As a child of immigrants from India and the first in her family to attend university, Aman faced a lot of unknowns and a lack of mentors to guide her through which courses to take, program selections, and internship opportunities. Upon reflection, she noticed that navigating a career path involves more than being accepted into university and working hard, but also depends on the connections you have to those in the industry.

Through both her thesis research and experiences, Aman recognizes the importance of mentorship programs being available to youth within secondary and post-secondary schools to help with their transition and progression within the labour market. In fact, one of the best decisions within her career has been selecting her own mentor.

Being a woman and a person of colour, Aman found that the youth employment barriers relevant to her within the workplace are subtle but accumulate overtime in a way that affects her experiences. An example includes the common mispronunciation of her name (Aman is pronounced Ah-min), which implicitly excludes her from opportunities to be called upon or to speak up. Therefore, she found great value in selecting a mentor within her field with a shared identity and has had to overcome similar barriers within employment as she did.

When asked about how to select a mentor, Aman stressed the importance of selecting someone who can give you relevant advice based upon their own experiences and career trajectory. Although Aman admitted approaching someone to be a mentor was nerve-wracking at first, she shared that the person she had asked has been super supportive and they continue to have meaningful conversations to this day.

Improving access to resources and empowering youth to overcome barriers in employment is not just something that Paige and Aman preach but is also evident through their actions and involvement. Currently, Paige is an IBM STEM for Girls ambassador, a delegate for the 2022 United Nation's Commission on the Status on Women, and is also conducting her master’s thesis on the impact of international trade agreements on rural communities. Aman has held a variety of positions with the Government of Canada as a Policy Analyst and is currently working with Finance Canada. She had also written and defended a master’s thesis on the labour market barriers affecting Black youth.

Both Paige and Aman mentioned that their involvement in the CCYP’s Youth Council was inspired by their dedication to become more involved within their communities and in public affairs. Through the opportunities they have pursued, Paige and Aman have found themselves, officially and unofficially, stepping into mentor roles and becoming advocates for youth within Canada.

When asked what they hoped the future of the youth workforce ecosystem entailed, Aman expressed a desire to make integration into the labour market easier for the next generation of youth by leveling the playing field we navigate within our careers. Paige hoped that opportunities for youth would become more available and accessible.. Barriers in youth employment come in different forms Therefore, it’s important to adapt how we approach providing opportunities that are accessible, relevant, and inclusive to youth within Canada.