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Cancellation of YouthForce program will make job market tougher still

A YouthForce staff picture from better days. The program has been cancelled this year. [Submitted]

People across the country are struggling to find and maintain work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now local youth, who already may not have the same access to jobs as others, will have a more difficult time finding summer employment, as YouthForce has chosen to cancel their summer program.

What would have been the fifth year of the program for youth aged 15 to 24 normally gives those who may live in subsidized housing entry into the workforce. They would take part in job skills training and then take on jobs which include yard maintenance and housing inspections.

Because of coronavirus, Joe-Ann McComb, executive director of Kinbridge Community Association, says it was determined that getting so many youth together for in-person skills training and then sending them into the homes of others for an inspection was just too risky during this time.

“It’s for the safety of both youth who we would employ as well as the homes that you go into,” said McComb. “It’s people’s homes that we’re still going into, so we have to be social distancing (and) physically okay to do that. And so, the reason that Waterloo itself and those specific housing complexes are the ones that they have cancelled for the YouthForce project to be working in there.”

She says because yard maintenance takes place on complex properties owned by the Region of Waterloo, and they are the ones who chose to pull out of having youth work there this summer, outside work is also cancelled, despite allowing for more social distancing measures.

Last year, 36 youth were employed through the program. Keeping that number of youth safe is the priority of Kinbridge and the Region of Waterloo, and to ensure some form of the program is still able to run, job skills training has been moved to an online format this year.

“We have workshops that are going online, so if they follow the social media those will still be moving forward. Also we’ll be connecting them with different resources they’ll be looking for,” said McComb. “It’s overall employment readiness… there’s a whole bigger picture to it.”

Topics of the online workshops include resume building, interview preparation, workplace safety and more.

She says this will be opening within the next few weeks for youth to take advantage of.

While the immediate summer program is cancelled, McComb says there is a chance for some form of youth employment this year if things change and the health officials – in addition to provincial openings – allow for it to happen.

“The message that we’re saying is ‘the immediate summer program is cancelled.’ And then we’re asking that youth keep following the social media with Kinbridge because that will be updated as we learn from the health officials of what’s safe to move forward.”

Because youth still need jobs during this time McComb says there are a lot of resources out there for them to access and has advice for them if they do wish to pursue employment during the pandemic.

“Still check all the government job postings, the local career access postings, do check all of those. Because as the limitations are being lifted organizations and businesses will be able to open up and start hiring for other jobs,” she added.

For more information on Kinbridge, and the upcoming YouthForce online workshops follow their social media on Twitter @Kinbridge and their Facebook page Kinbridge Community Association.

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