Youth Unemployment Canada: 420,000 Jobless, Not In School, CIBC Says

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A new report says Canadian youth face the risk of chronic unemployment despite being more educated than ever. (Getty Images)
A new report says Canadian youth face the risk of chronic unemployment despite being more educated than ever. (Getty Images)

TORONTO - Young Canadians are at risk of chronic unemployment as growing numbers are graduating well-educated, but with no work experience, a CIBC report suggests.

About 420,000 youth aged 15 to 24 — or nearly one in 10 young Canadians — are neither employed nor enrolled in school, the report found.

The economic reality for young Canadians today is very different than that of previous generations, said CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal, the report's author.

"They are basically on the sidelines doing nothing," he said in an interview. "They will not be able to penetrate this very competitive labour market."

In a market where previous experience is essential, youth aren't able to find the summer jobs and part-time work required to build a resume, Tal said.

"Now, while more education is positive, increasingly, students are completing their education without any work experience and are more likely to be caught in the no job–no experience, and no experience–no job cycle," he said in the report.

One in five unemployed youth, aged 15 to 24, has never held a job, Tal found. That's 40 per cent higher than the long-term average and close to the record high of the 1990s.

"The current environment of part-time work, temporary jobs, corporate and government restructuring and downsizing is especially tough on young people whose lack of experience and seniority make them much more vulnerable to labour market changes," Tal said in the report.

Youth are more educated than ever before. While the percentage of youth aged 15 to 19 who are enrolled in school is relatively static, students seem to be in school longer. Enrolment rates in the 20- to 24-year-old age group are rapidly increasing, with 44 per cent currently in school, the report found.

One major problem area Tal highlighted is the transition youth undergo moving from school to workforce.

Policy-makers need to create options in which education and work-related training are combined, Tal said. This would allow youth to find jobs while in school and close the learning gap that exists when students transition into the work world.

A university degree in any subject is no longer enough, he said. Instead, youth need to choose disciplines that offer practical experience and long-term employment opportunities. Taking advanced courses and networking with people are two ways that high school students can distinguish themselves.

Youth today have more opportunities than ever before to creatively make a name for themselves and improve their clout in a competitive job market, such as using online platforms for networking, Tal said.

"Do whatever it takes to make you different," he said in an interview.

The youth unemployment rate is more than double the unemployment rate for Canadians aged 25 and older — a record-high ratio that needs to be addressed, Tal said.

"For Canada's economy to grow and our standard of living to remain high, this is an imperative," he said in the report.

The Canadian education system must find ways to incorporate skills that enhance students' employability directly into the curriculum, Tal said.

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