Today, we’re talking youth employment. If you’re a young person in Halifax, and you haven’t yet heard of this, it’s worth reading about, so stick around. I’m talking about the Halifax Partnership, which has been our city’s economic development organization for over twenty years. This week, I was lucky enough to sit down with Renée LeVangie, a Program Coordinator of the Partnership’s successful Connector Program.
The Program, as its name suggests, connects newcomers, and local and international graduates to established professionals and leaders in their community, with the goal of increasing employment and parting the veil on the “hidden job market.” The Partnership reports 964 jobs to date have been found by Program participants--a resounding success for what is, in 2017, only its eighth year running.
Renée, laughing as she described herself as a “boomerang”--a local who left Nova Scotia for several years and then returned for work--told me that two thirds of the Partnership’s Connector Program Coordinators fall under the “youth” designation. That’s a number reflective of the other extremely impactful Partnership program we spoke about: the Game Changers Youth Retention Action Plan.
The Partnership defines “youth” as being between the ages of 20-29. That makes me one, and it also makes my workplace an 85% youth-led social enterprise. This week we’re not just talking youth. We’re talking the programs and businesses giving youth in Nova Scotia a chance to bring their energy, talent and ideas to the workforce.
Both initiatives, the Connector Program and Game Changers, are designed to promote the retention of talented people in Nova Scotia, Canada-wide and abroad. Both directly address certain goals set out by the Ivany report in 2014 (namely Inter-Provincial Migration, International Immigration, Retention of International Students and Youth Employment). Renée pointed out that the Connector Program has been addressing these issues since its inception in 2009, but the Game Changers initiative was started by the Partnership in 2015 as a response to a call to action by the Ivany report. It leverages the Connector Program to engage private sector businesses in hiring young talent, many of whom graduate every year from Nova Scotia’s many post-secondary institutions.
“Youth want to stay, and who wouldn’t?” Renée asked. “Our beaches, hiking trails and sailing culture, mixed with our live music scene and cultural events, makes Halifax an awesome place to live. We want more people to call Nova Scotia home, and through the Connector Program we’re making that happen one connection at a time.”
Game Changers is a bold, three-year approach with the ultimate goal of reducing Nova Scotia’s net annual youth out-migration (the number of people aged 20-29 leaving the province) to zero by 2019. That’s an aggressive stance, considering the 20-year annual average on youth out-migration from 1995-2014 is about -1,300. But when examined, the recent numbers are, actually, looking good. And the numbers don’t lie.
At the 2017 Game Changers Awards Gala, which was held at the Westin Nova Scotian at the end of October, myself and over 300 other Halifax community members dressed up and came out to celebrate those businesses leading the way in youth employment and creation of experiential learning opportunities (another pillar of the Game Changers program). Rewarding businesses for championing youth is a key part of the marketing strategy in demonstrating to community leaders that you can do right by recent grads and grow your business by investing in young talent. “New graduates have grown up with technology, and bring fresh ideas and innovative solutions. They crave experience and the opportunity to learn more,” explained Renée. Several CGS team members and I were at the Gala representing Common Good Solutions, as we were a Top 3 Finalist in the small business category for Best Youth Employer. If we got here on the strength of our under-30 team, then you can too.
Before the awards were announced, some recent numbers were presented, and the crowd learned that youth out-migration had dropped from -1500 in 2014-15 to -222 in 2015-16. Put plainly, the number of youth leaving the province dropped, in one year, by the previous 20-year annual average: a jump up of roughly 1,300. This news was met with a ringing round of applause. We were then told that the projected number for 2016-2017 is -231, in keeping within the range of last year, though the estimated stats won’t be finalized by Statistics Canada until September 2018. Despite being preliminary, this is exciting news. So far, Game Changers is hitting its mark as more young people are staying in Nova Scotia and finding good jobs.
I recognize that, thus far, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a job, and I’m not even considered a recent grad yet. I don’t plan on leaving, at least not anytime soon, and that may be due to the fact that a small, socially-minded business took a chance on me. Actually, it took a chance on the majority of its employees, most of whom are youth, some of whom are students (like me), and a majority of whom are recent grads still getting that vital 3-5 years of work experience cited by so many employers.
At the gala, we didn’t end up winning the award for Best Youth Employer, but the company who won, AGADA Biosciences, was well-deserving. We all felt honoured to even have been considered. The nomination shows that we are a part of setting the example, and sincerely hope other partners, businesses and community leaders take heed, and follow.
If you’re an employer in NS, Common Good Solutions challenges you to give youth a chance. Concerned about funding? Here are some programs you can access to tap into our province’s talent:
- Graduate to opportunity (provincial)
- Canada Summer Jobs (federal)
- Co-Operative Employment Initiative (provincial)
The Connector Program began in Halifax, and within the past four years, 23 other communities have followed its example under the National Connector Program. Largely serving immigrants across the country, the program is tailored to the labour market demands for each area. Programs recently launched in Cape Breton and the Western Region, and like the one in Halifax, they serve both newcomers and local and international graduates.
Quite soon, we’ll hear directly from the Cape Breton Partnership about their new program, and from Chloe Donatelli, one of CGS’s two Cape Breton team members. Chloe is already “connected” to the fledgling Connector Program in Cape Breton, and is yet another youth creating positive change in her community, having been given the chance to deploy her impressive skills by her employer. Many youth in Nova Scotia leave their home regions for Halifax, but I’m interested in what can be found outside of our one large urban area. Through Chloe, we’ll hear the story of a come-from-away who moved to Sydney for school, and stayed for a work opportunity.
If you’re looking to make connections in Halifax, an event you should not miss is the speed-networking event for emerging and established leaders on November 30th, hosted by Fusion Halifax and the Halifax Partnership Connector Program. Titled "I’m Staying…what's Next?", it’s a great follow-up to Fusion’s #HowDoIStay Panel which consistently touched on the importance of connections.
Written by: Sam Krueger
Sam is from Toronto and lives and writes in Halifax. He has spent the summer conducting research at Common Good Solutions HQ for the Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia, and is excited to bring a voice to the office, its people, and Nova Scotia’s social enterprise community.