Youths need to get free of cyberspace job hunts

A new report from the federal government’s expert panel on youth employment

OTTAWA — A new report from the federal government’s expert panel on youth employment points to a need to move away from digital services for young, first-time job seekers and instead offer more person-to-person contacts and services.

In an interim report released Wednesday, the panel described how young people complete hundreds of online job applications without receiving any response from employers and that the reliance on using personal networks to find jobs is unreasonably high.

Young people with the most success at landing a job do so through the people they know and for those without such a network, the necessity to build connections can be overly intimidating, the report said.

“We are deluding ourselves if we think that by digitizing the job application process we are making it more democratic. Network effects are as strong as ever and this hurts young people with less social capital,” said panel chairwoman Vass Bednar.

The panel’s interim report found young Canadians have high levels of anxiety about their future work prospects, even those with post-secondary education and previous job experience — two keys frequently cited as an avenue to a good job.

A Statistics Canada study released earlier this month showed that young people have seen their job quality decline over 40 years, even as the youth unemployment rate has remained relatively unchanged. In both 1976 and 2015 it was 2.3 times higher than the rate among those aged 25 and older.

The Liberals made sweeping promises to young Canadians as part of their election platform. One plank has yet to materialize as federal policy: a vow to waive EI premiums for 12 months for any employer who gives someone between the ages of 18 and 24 a full-time job.

Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said the government is still considering the measure and is working out the kinks on other possible tax credits to create incentives for companies to give a young person their first job.

“What we want to do is ensure that what we’re doing is the most effective, to give it the broadest range and make it accessible for many, many youth,” she said.

Mihychuk said the government is planning a big push on what’s known as work-integrated learning models where students earn school credits while working in their field, such as through a co-op placement or internship.

Federal officials have been looking at those kinds of models since shortly after the Liberals took office, particularly programs at the University of Waterloo, to connect employers with schools so students gain the skills needed to have a successful job hunt.

“This is one piece of a bigger plan. We knew from going door to door in the election and even before that the situation for young people in Canada was pretty tough and that we needed to make changes,” Mihychuk said.

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