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How to Authentically Engage Youth in the Workforce Development Ecosystem

Authentically Engage Youth
By embracing youth insight, employers strengthen their recruitment and retention efforts and Canada’s economy is in turn fueled by an engaged youth workforce.

Imagine for a moment, a friend is eager to have you over for dinner. They want to share a great meal and enjoy a long visit – but, they do not ask you what you like to eat, whether you have allergies or how you like to spend your time. Instead, they serve what they think you’ll like and entertain you based on their needs.

Sure, it gets the job done, kinda.

This is a common experience of youth at work. Employers very much want to recruit and retain young workers, yet their voices are often absent in the development of policies, procedures and services that impact them.

There are a lot of factors that play into missing out on youth insight in the workplace, including misconceptions like youth are too inexperienced to add value. Here’s the thing, though: No one knows more about youth than youth. When engaged as experts on themselves, Canada’s workforce development ecosystem is transformed through:

  • youth-informed policies, practices and programming

  • targeted insights on current trends

  • more inclusive and equitable workplaces

  • improved strategies that are grounded in innovation and collaboration

Youth as Co-Creators

Engaging youth – authentically engaging them – means empowering them as true partners.

It’s imperative to go beyond consulting or considering their unique and important perspective. Authentic and meaningful youth engagement values their insight, experience and voice as collaborators on issues that affect them and topics that are important to them.

Diverse Representation

Okay, let’s pause for a second to point out the obvious yet sometimes overlooked reality that the voice of youth is not a single note. Rather, it’s a melody made of racialized youth, marginalized youth, youth with disabilities, youth from different socio-economic backgrounds, youth with different identities, as well as immigrant, newcomer and second-generation youth, among others.

When engaging young people, it’s important to ensure diverse representation that is selected through an inclusive process.

Effective Engagement

Youth engagement in the workforce development ecosystem is a spectrum that could include:

  • one-off youth advisory support

  • a youth advisory network for sustained engagement

  • an in-house youth council active in decision-making

  • hiring more youth across the organization

Engagement is most effective when it includes:

  • valuing the perspective of youth as unique and required in decisions that impact them

  • safe spaces where youth can bring their full and authentic selves

  • clarity on how youth input will be sought and actioned

  • follow through after engagement

How CCYP Can Help

Appreciating not everyone has a network of youth to tap for their expertise, the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity connects youth voices to employers and other stakeholders through:

  • The Compensated Opportunities for Youth Network (COYN): A network of young advisors who can inform programming, discuss problems and find youth-informed solutions specific to an organization’s needs.

  • The Youth Workforce Consultancy (YWC): A youth-led initiative offering training, resources and consultations to increase youth participation in quality workforce opportunities.

By embracing youth insight, employers strengthen their recruitment and retention efforts and Canada’s economy is in turn fueled by an engaged youth workforce. Everybody wins.

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