News Local

Series: Working It Out (Part 6) - Young and able

Marg. Bruineman - Barrie Examiner

Barrie's unemployment rate has climbed above the national and provincial averages in recent years. This fall, the city is experiencing a spike.

This is the final part of a six-part series the Barrie Examiner has been running that looks at the evolution of jobs and joblessness in our city.


They're the millennial generation, or Gen Y, trailing in the shadows of the baby boomers.

And they're trying to get jobs at a time when things are changing dramatically and jobs aren't so plentiful.

When the unemployment rate goes up, it's the youth that are most affected, and this fall is no exception.

In Ontario, youth unemployment is 16.5%, more than double the 8.1% overall unemployment average.

A jump in joblessness means even competition for the low-paying "survival jobs" and the kids looking to get their first job find it's not always easy.

In some of the world's corners, those under 30 are considered the new Lost Generation.

Krista Darling won't have any of that. She refuses to accept a survival job.

First she's getting as much help as she possibly can to get a job.

Then she's got some long-term plans to create one for herself.

Having moved to Barrie to start a new life with her two small children, Darling looked around and wasn't pleased with the offerings. So she went to a place she was familiar with in the Toronto area - the YMCA youth services.

"I had to find a job. The only places that are hiring are McDonalds and Tim Hortons and I can't support my family on that," said the 27-year-old single mother.

Darling is the last cohort to be accepted into Federal Public Sector Youth Internship Program, which began with a series of workshops and sessions. She is now about to start a 10-month paid internship at CFB Borden.

Not knowing what lies beyond those 10 months, Darling is also working on a long-term plan. Like so many others, she's in the process of starting her own business.

"I want to start a doggy day care," she declared. "I believe that's the only way I'm going to make money in Barrie."

Darling said finding a job here proved much more of a challenge than what she experienced in Toronto. She figures had she not tapped into the Y program, she could well have been lost in the numbers of the unemployed.

"Young people that don't know about this place won't get anywhere," she said.

The obvious jobs are fast-food restaurants and retail - notorious entry-level jobs with low pay. Accessing the hidden job market takes some skill and really requires help from people who know their way, she found.

In a way, Darling is lucky. She doesn't have a high school diploma, so unlike so many with diplomas and degrees she's able to tap into programs designed for marginalized youth.

The YMCA youth services employment programs are designed for people under 30, like Darling, who have fallen through the cracks and need help to get things going.

There's a whole bunch of others not fitting the definition of having fallen through the cracks, but are needing help just the same. Janette McGee, general manager for the Y's youth programs in Barrie, sees them, but can only help a small percentage of them.

Of the eight spots available for Darling's program, only one was available to a high school graduate. Thirty-three people applied for that one spot while 12 applied for the seven spots available for non-graduates.

"We know there's tons of them out there that don't fit the criteria," said McGee. "We were allowed to take one, but where do the rest go?"

That representation is pretty typical of the programs for which the Y program has funding. Another program offering paid internships begins at the end of the month. Of the 10 spots available there, only three are designated for high school graduates.

"We could fill the seats with high school (graduates), but we can't because of the funding," she said. "They're coming in with their diplomas and want to be in the same program."

McGee has made a joint application with College Boreal for one of the few programs they able to find for non-marginalized youth. If successful, that would open 20 spots for English-speaking kids and another 10 for francophone youths.

Barrie's four employment centres, funded by the provincial training ministry, are designed to deal with everyone's jobs needs and work through whatever barriers exist. Some are universal. The "hidden job market", jobs that are available but are not readily advertised, is expected to harbour somewhere in the area of 70% of the jobs (see definition). The centres try to find those jobs and connect them with the people looking for them.

When there are changes in employment market, these are the folk likely to first notice. One that career counsellors at the Bayfield Mall employment centre noticed starting last April, is more people without a source of income looking for work. These are the people much more likely to take those low-paying survival jobs, said Louise Woodrow, the career centre co-ordinator.

On the up side, she adds, seekers are not waiting as long to come to the centre after losing their job. That, she said, reduces their stress and increases the potential for success.

The point of the centres is to help people get what they need to get back into the workforce as soon as possible. The employment resource and information area has job postings and vacancies the employment development team are able to hunt down.

In addition to access to typical office equipment, from photocopiers to Internet access, there's information on training, the labour market, various occupations and apprenticeship resource. And there's help on how to put together resumes and act during interviews.

And like the YMCA's service, they have access to some wage incentives and employment supports.

Downtown, the Collier Street employment centre attracts younger job searchers, partly because that's the location of the Summer Jobs Service.

One of the barriers for younger job seekers is geography, said co-ordinator Holly Hie. If their search area is limited, it might take more time to find what they're looking for.

Those who have recently earned degrees or diplomas might be referred back to their schools' alumni career services. Employers posting jobs with training providers are looking specifically for fresh grads, and not necessarily workers with experience.

And then being Gen Yers, they're inclined to hit the Internet in their job search, going to sites like and the non-profit where they can find internships. was designed by Lauren Friese four years ago, after she graduated from the London School of Economics. Her clients are employers and students from across the country go to the site in search of jobs, but they can also vent a little on the company's blog site.

The challenges of youth are quite different, depending upon whether they have a degree or a diploma or not. But just the same, she concludes, this is not a privileged generation.

"I would expect the number is much, much, much, much more higher" for unemployed graduates than the released rates indicate, she said, "because they don't include the underemployed."

Part of the problem is the availability of jobs. The other is the expectation of those looking for work. Many are raised on the premise that the world is their oyster and a good work-life balance awaits them.

As a result, Friese suspects that there are a lot of graduates simply holding out, not settling for what is immediately available.

While youth are challenged on the work front, Friese is reticent to call hers, the Lost Generation. That moniker, she said, has been tried on every generation since it was first used to describe the early 20th Century writers and coined in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

While Darling begins her 10-month placement, she is also finishing her business plan and she's started networking.

Next up will be sourcing the $5,000 in start-up fees she needs to get her doggy day care off the ground, that includes grant writing.

"It's kind of surreal," she said of the idea that her dream could well become her reality.


Youth Unemployment

Youth employment is particularly affected by economic downturns.

Between October 2008 and October 2009, employment declined by about 10% among those age 15 to 24, representing 225,000 jobs and more than one-half of the total job loss during this time.

With lower levels of seniority, job permanency and job protection, young workers are often the last to be hired and the first to be laid-off.


Job Search Lingo

Hidden Job Market

Traditionally, approximately 70 to 80% of job vacancies are not formally advertised.

For this reason we coach our job searchers to use a wide range of job searching strategies.

These strategies include talking to people about the type of work you want (the common term heard is networking), social networking, going directly to employers you are interested in, professional organizations as well as the typical strategies: newspaper, Internet.

Survival Jobs

Survival jobs typically are jobs that individuals take for financial need while continuing to search for a more suitable position or an opportunity more in line with their employment goals.

Statistically since April 1, 2011, the Career Centre has observed an increase in the number of individuals who currently have no source of income.

This demonstrates the connection between the need for individuals to attain survival jobs during their continuous search.

On a positive note, statistically we are seeing job searchers accessing our Centre much earlier following their job loss.

Their proactivity helps them to determine early in the process what they need to get back to work and ultimately reduces their stress and increases the potential for success.


Global Numbers

At the end of 2010, there were an estimated 75.1 million young people in the world struggling to find work - 4.6 million more than in 2007. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of unemployed youth increased by an 4.5 million.

This remarkable increase is better visualized when compared to the average increase of the pre-crisis period (1997-2007) of less than 100,000 persons per year.

The youth unemployment rate also rose sharply during the economic crisis - from 11.6% to 12.7% - and has shown little improvement since its peak in 2010.

Only in 2011 is the youth unemployment rate projected to show a minimal decrease to 12.6%.

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