*Published in the Telegraph Journal on October 13, 2018*
The loss of young people to other jurisdictions is one of Saint John’s biggest challenges. The inability of many young people to get the skills they need to fill available jobs means the city is losing the people it needs to build the future.
Not only is it an economic loss for the city and a contributor to the shrinking tax base, but too many families have to watch as their children grow up and leave Saint John in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
More must be done to match youth to jobs through better training. To this end, Ottawa is investing $2.7 million in Saint John programs to help young people improve their skills for the workforce. It’s a package the local Human Development Council welcomes as new hope for youth in the region.
We agree it’s a wise plan, both for its intentions and its design. Funding will go to the Teen Resource Centre, Saint John Learning Exchange, Outflow and the Saint John Community Loan Fund. Already 100 people have signed up for the programs.
The program is designed in a versatile way so local operations that see results will get more money to do what works over time. This is far better than simply throwing money at a problem and waiting to see what happens.
Major funding announcement
MP Wayne Long was at the Outflow building on Thursday to announce an investment of $2.7 million for the Human Development Council’s UYES! project.
The initiative takes four principle partners in the community that are already doing “incredible work,” according to Human Development Council executive director Randy Hatfield,and allows them to scale up.
Funding will go to the Teen Resource Centre, Saint John Learning Exchange, Outflow and the Saint John Community Loan Fund. As of Thursday, 100 people have signed up for the programs.
“You need people on the ground to make these things move,” said Hatfield. “It’s basically using innovation money and scaling up what works.”
The goal is to take youth, identify the barriers they are facing, work on their soft skills, pre-employment courses, academic upgrading, and eventually try to attach them to the labour force.
Hatfield stressed it’s an individualized program that “taps the experts that are doing the work.”
Jayme Hall is the executive director of Outflow, and played a lead role in creating Catapult Construction and setting up the carpentry course.
Two carpenters work in the facility full-time, and help the students as they make their way through the modules.
He said it takes a “teach a man to fish” approach, and is working to become a sustainable operation with the help of this investment.
Two-and-a-half year process
Procuring the finances from the federal government has been a journey in itself, explained Long. It’s taken two-and-a-half years spanning two ministers, a disappearance of the project altogether, kicking down doors, and then finally getting it back on the rails.
“This project will change lives and save lives in this community,” said Long.“We can make good things happen.”
He made the announcement Thursday on behalf of Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. She said in a statement “supporting youth as they transition into the workforce and giving them the training they need to succeed is a key way in which we can grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”
Saint John Mayor Don Darling, who has a background in the construction industry, noted on a tour of the Outflow facility how reassuring it is to see an equal number of women working in the carpentry program.
“It’s incredibly positive,” said Darling. “I’m excited to see these projects come together and actually thrive off each other and drive the outcomes to an even higher level of success.”
As for Ryan, he’s now completed his third module, and is working toward finishing the program.
If all goes according to plan, he said his goal is to eventually land a job with Catapult Construction.