Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says she is taking a sweeping look at the country’s youth employment strategy to better target help to those who need it most.
The review comes in the wake of a report from an expert panel the government struck last year that came up with 13 recommendations to help young Canadians get into and thrive in a changing labour market.
The panel’s final report recommended the Liberals expand eligibility for the Canada Summer Jobs program to include those who are not in post-secondary studies and make funding accessible throughout the year and not just during the summer months.
A national student group said the recommendation could go a long way to helping young people in the job market. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations said a wider breadth of employment options year-round, including part-time jobs, would allow students who study or have other commitments during the summer to find paid work placements in their field.
In a telephone interview from Toronto on Friday, Hajdu said the summer jobs program is one of a suite of youth employment programs officials are looking at to find ways to fill gaps in the system highlighted in the panel’s report.
She said she doesn’t want any groups of students or young workers unintentionally left behind by whatever changes the Liberals ultimately decide upon, but suggested that future changes would look to target vulnerable populations like indigenous youth and new immigrants, who have a harder time accessing the job market.
“When those folks who have the hardest time getting a job actually get the supports (they need), they thrive and they become contributors to the economy,” Hajdu said.
“We’ll be focusing closely on being very targeted in our approach and we’re supporting those who need the most help with the very specific help that they need.”
Hajdu was in Toronto to launch this year’s version of the Canada Summer Jobs program.
Last year, the program funded almost 66,000 jobs, but fell short of the 77,000 positions the Liberals had hoped to fill with the help of an extra $113 million annually last year, this year, and next.
In the wake of last year’s results, the Liberals moved up the opening of the application period, then extended it by two weeks in January when it looked like there would be a shortfall in businesses applying for the program.
The program now has almost 42,000 businesses involved, surpassing the number of applications last year.
Exactly how many jobs that translates into at not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees won’t be known until the end of the year.
While Canadian youth are more likely to be employed than their peers in other countries, the situation domestically is far from stable, with a rise in part-time work and more job churn that may mark the career of someone entering the labour market today.
The job situation in May looked better for youth aged 15 to 24 as Statistics Canada reported Friday that employment rose by 28,000, the result of full-time gains, largely in Ontario and British Columbia. The national statistics office said it was the first notable increase for youth since October 2016.
The overall youth unemployment rate was 12 per cent, little changed from previous jobs reports, as more young people participated in the labour market.