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Employment of rural youth in Ontario

Date: April 13, 2015

This commentary is related to the Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets about youth employment. It is provided by Carol Simpson, Executive Director, Workplace Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin.

From a Workplace Planning Board perspective, I am interested in the Rural Ontario Institute’s Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheet series.

Given our understanding of local data, somewhat surprisingly, despite increasing population growth in the 15 to 24 year old age categories, their labour force growth is not keeping pace. Over the past year, we have seen unemployment rates among this age group drop as the number of young workers finding employment continues to rise. E.g. in the metro area of Waterloo Region, the number of young workers joining the labour force from January 2014 to January 2015 increased by only 1000, while 4000 more were employed in the same period. This is putting a strain on the already tight job market in the area.

Access to the Youth Employment Fund, provided through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, over the past year and a half may have had a significant impact, enabling young people to access employment opportunities by providing wage supports to employers who hired them. It will be interesting to see if the discontinuation of this program impacts youth employment rates in a negative fashion over the next few months.

In some non-metro parts of my area, youth participation rates continue to decline, perhaps due to youth becoming disengaged from the labour force. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of a rural business rotating through the local youth population several times but they are not able to retain these young workers initially. When these young workers come back later, realizing that this was actually a good opportunity, in many instances they find the doors closed on them. With few other local opportunities they lose interest and stop looking for work. Businesses may have to reconsider not rehiring formerly unsuccessful young workers, when they re-enter the workforce at some later stage, in order to meet their labour demands.

With many non-metro region populations struggling to maintain and/or grow their labour force, youth re-engagement and youth retention are forefront in many workforce development strategies and initiatives across my area and other parts of Ontario.