According to a recent United Nations report countries that invest in their youth will have stronger economies and healthier populations. Unfortunately the efforts to address youth unemployment in most U.N. member countries is inadequate. Too many of the world’s 1.8 billion youth are becoming a cost to society rather than contributors to a prosperous future. During the past 10 years I have been the Chief Executive Officer of two international organizations working with youth and have witnessed the deterioration of opportunities for youth in both rich and poor countries. Urgent action is needed and with my partners Natasha Cassinath and Brent MacKinnon youthprofit.ca has been launched as one small but hopefully useful response to a very important problem.
Fifteen years ago as a member of the group that launched CCEDNet and the Chair during the organization’s formative years, my colleagues and I shared a belief that neither governments nor the private sector had the capacity to eliminate Canada’s high level of unemployment or stop the economic decline of many Canadian communities. A few years earlier while conducting research for the book Community Profit, my partner Susan Wismer and I learned a valuable lesson from the community leaders we met during our travels across Canada. Very often government’s and the private sector do not address problems or pursue opportunities because they either don’t know what to do or they don’t believe an investment of resources is worth the risks.
Since its inception CCEDNet has attempted with notable success to be a resource that could help organizations address the limitations of government and the private sector by encouraging mutually beneficial collaboration and demonstrating successful models of community development practice. youthprofit.ca aspires to be a complementary on-line resource encouraging organizations from all sectors to work together in the development of practical solutions to youth unemployment and underemployment.
My colleagues and I have created youthprofit.ca as a place where people looking for solutions can receive and share information with fellow Canadians and our friends from around the world. We believe the global economies are in an historic transition where economic growth will be characterized by robotics, artificial intelligence, global network relationships, continuous innovation and entrepreneurship. As a result, the need for human labour is expected to shrink. Researchers from MIT, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Saskatchewan to name a few are convinced the transition is well underway and it is possible that in developed countries 50% of the occupations we know today will not exist in 20 years.
At youthprofit.ca we believe through collaboration, political will and experimentation, solutions to our current youth unemployment problems and the detrimental impacts of the changes to our economy can be found. We believe immediate action is required to address our current high levels of youth unemployment in Canada and provide examples of what is possible with stories from Canada, the United States, Denmark and Switzerland. We also want to contribute to a national discussion regarding the impact of the ‘new economy’ on employment. There is a growing list of ideas regarding what can be done to successfully adapt to the new economic environment. youthprofit.ca will examine these proposals and encourage a dialogue with interested parties from across the country. At this point we have adopted 3 Guiding Principles that are the framework for the actions we believe Canada needs to adopt. Briefly:
- design education and training programs based on employer needs, current and anticipated entrepreneurial opportunities;
- learning about work and employment opportunities should be an integral part of a youth’s education starting at the age of 10 years;
- education and training programs should be based on a model of collaboration that is system wide and involves leadership from governments, the private sector and non-government organizations.
youthprofit.ca is in its infancy. Much work needs to be done to improve the site and to build a community of engaged citizens. Our success will be defined by the quality of information we can collect and share and the discussions we can foster with leaders from our youth serving sector, government and private business. Members of CCEDNet can help by promoting the site and most important participating in the sharing of information and discussions.
David Pell is a private consultant, team member of youthprofit.ca, and a founding member of the Canadian CED Network. During the past 30 years has been instrumental in the formation of businesses and training organizations that provide employment opportunities for youth. In his role as a Chief Executive Officer, consultant or university instructor he has focused on ideas that have tangible outcomes and the potential to be self-sustaining. His research efforts have contributed to several publications examining effective ways to reduce youth unemployment.
His work has involved working with many inspiring people in communities across Canada, Europe and several developing countries. In Canada, his experience including leading the development of the Community Business Centre, as a consultant with First Nation organizations and the establishment of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (now Futurpreneur) has resulted in a strong belief in the value of partnerships between civil society, governments and the private sector as a means of addressing youth unemployment.