Talent Management

By Sevaun Palvetzian

In Canada, over 500,000 youth are not in education, employment or training (NEET). In the Toronto region, the number comes to over 80,000 for youth aged 15 to 24.


These young people are effectively in limbo, and the reasons may include barriers like socio-economic status, demographic background or personal circumstances that prevent them from entering the job market. Early joblessness can lead to reduced confidence, lack of hope and long-term financial instability.

The government can’t solve this problem alone. Employers can help close the gap, and doing so can address their own labour needs, creating a win-win solution for both employers and youth who need jobs. According to CivicAction’s 2014 report released with the launch of Escalator, hiring barriered youth can present numerous benefits to employers, including reduced labour, training and talent pipeline costs associated with hiring dedicated employees at the entry level and then developing them.

Tapping into diverse pools of young talent can offer real competitive advantage by reflecting a broad customer base.

And showing a commitment to youth opportunity and corporate social responsibility can help enhance brand image and deepen employee engagement.
Often, employers may be willing to create opportunities for youth, but may not have concrete ideas on where to start. By uncovering best practices from real employers that can be replicated across industries, companies can learn from each other and identify tips and lessons that would be useful in the field.

Starbucks Canada, for example, is showing a commitment to hiring young people who have faced various barriers to employment, by signing the City of Toronto’s pledge to commit 10 per cent of their new store hires to Opportunity Youth. Through working with a City of Toronto program that helps unemployed youth, they have found that they are recruiting motivated young people they would not normally have access to. There is a great opportunity to build up Canadian expertise on removing barriers, both formal and informal, within the recruiting, hiring and developing process in order to ensure success for both employer and youth employees.

There is a price to inaction. According to U.S. figures, when young people don’t get connected to a positive career pathway, the cost to society is an estimated $1 million per youth over the course of their lifetime. At a time when employers in some sectors report difficulty filling and maintaining entry-level roles, there is real need for HR strategies that can make a difference. Luckily, HR leaders can play a key role in moving the needle for youth in Canada, especially those who are facing multiple barriers. Together, HR leaders, their organizations and government can work together to help ensure that young people are able to thrive and contribute to society.

Sevaun Palvetzian is CEO of CivicAction. For more information about initiatives to solve youth unemployment, visit www.civicaction.ca.