Young Nova Scotians are the future of our province. Their vitality, skills and commitment to community will define what we become. That is why Nova Scotia needs to create opportunities that will give young people confidence they can achieve their career and family aspirations in their home province.
The challenge, however, is that net outmigration has reduced the population of Nova Scotians aged 20-29 by an average of 1.3 per cent annually from 2004 to 2014. We must reverse this demographic decline and leverage our 5Cs: culture, creativity, community, charm, and character. To do this, Nova Scotia must make greater strides in boosting the employment rate of youth, as well as the workforce participation of youth who are not in education, employment or training. A concerted effort to develop a coordinated youth strategy that maximizes youth opportunities and retention should be an immediate priority.
Much of the work in our plan focuses on our young people; they are critical to the improvement of our economy, society and culture.
This action plan focuses on three themes:
- 2.1 Good Careers and Entrepreneurship
- 2.2 Support for At-Risk and Disadvantaged Youth
- 2.3 Local Youth Partnerships
2.1 Good Careers and Entrepreneurship
We must increase and strengthen connections between employers and students planning career paths. These connections are the key to helping youth realize their potential so they can enter the workforce and remain in our communities.
Our goals are to maximize retention opportunities for the thousands of students who choose to study here, and increase workforce attachment for those who are under-employed. Together, we should:
- Enhance high school guidance counseling services to help students be aware of evolving workforce opportunities and the paths of study, including pre-requisite courses, that align with their career aspirations
- Expand youth connection and mentorship programs, such as those of the Halifax and Cape Breton partnerships
- Increase partnerships with business, not-for-profits and PSE institutions
- Maximize co-ops, experiential learning, internships and youth entrepreneurship
- Be open and welcoming to international and out-of-province students
- Demonstrate government leadership and programs on youth employment
2.2 Supporting At-Risk and Disadvantaged Youth
At-risk youth and those from disadvantaged backgrounds often become disconnected from education and career opportunities at various stages in their lives. A disproportionate number are from First Nations or African Nova Scotian communities, or are youth with disabilities. In most cases, special attention is needed to help them get back on track.
We recommend the Minister of Youth lead a sustained initiative to close the skills gap for youth from under-represented communities in the workforce. To achieve this we should:
- Work with the private sector and post-secondary institutions to develop a program that enhances employment opportunities for youth from under-represented groups, such as the U.S. Techhire model related to work in the ICT field
- Implement a program of “Diversity Reporting,” where employers post information on their website about the diversity of their workforce
- Celebrate diversity and create positive messages about inclusion. Strong programs–such as Michelin’s employment equity partnerships–could be scaled by other employers to improve workforce diversity
- Community-led programs that have demonstrated success—such as Pathways in Spryfield—could serve as a model that other communities could replicate
2.3 Local Partnerships
In an effort to foster collaboration between youth and a broad group of stakeholders, the Coalition recommends the creation of community-based local youth partnerships. To succeed, the partnerships will need to galvanize the commitment and imagination of youth and those who understand local challenges–the RENs, chambers of commerce, NSCC campuses, school boards, trade unions, employers, municipalities and community leaders.
The province should support this effort, with substantial support from partner organizations in all sectors. Partnerships should work to:
- Offer more co-op placements, apprenticeships and experiential learning in high schools, universities, and NSCC programs
- Mobilize the private sector, with support from government, to attach skilled youth to work opportunities in their region
- Encourage engaged individuals with available skills to support youth in their communities through volunteer tutoring or mentoring