BGCBigs supports a diverse demographic of children and youth. Often, the kids that frequent our clubs come from low-income families, single parent homes, and/or are first generation immigrants. These social circumstances naturally have economic implications. Our youth opened up to us recently and shared some of the challenges they face when trying to find employment to help support their families. Many feel they lack the knowledge, skills, and networks required to finding employment. Statistics Canada tells us that 73% of youth get their first job from their parents’ network. Our parents simply don’t have those networks.

I think about my first job. I was employed at 15 by my father to work for the family business. When I graduated from high school I worked as a nanny for a family friend. The following summer, my brother hired me to paint houses. Every job I’d ever had as a teenager came from my family connections/networks. For youth who come from poverty or have recently immigrated to Canada, they may not have the know-how or networks necessary for finding employment. This is where RBC stepped in.

Recognizing youth as tomorrow’s successors, RBC developed and implemented “Future Launch,” an initiative directed toward improving the employability of Canadian youth. They pinpointed three specific challenges Canadian youth face: lack of relevant experience, lack of relevant skills, and lack of professional networks and mentoring. Having exposed the quiet crisis that Canadian youth face, RBC partnered with a variety of organizations to develop a solution. This large-scale operation is a 10 year, $500,000,000 commitment. It is the largest initiative of its kind in Canadian history and we are honored to be a part of it.

BGCBigs and RBC have a long-standing relationship. Since 2013, RBC has donated over $156,000 to our agency. These generous donations go towards maintaining our after school clubs, sponsoring our annual golf tournament, and improving our mentoring programs. It was only natural then, that RBC partner with our agency to ensure that our youth have equal opportunity to find employment in Edmonton. Last year, we went to RBC with the concerns our youth had shared with us about employment. RBC donated $20,000 for us to just think through what we could do. It’s not often a funder gives us money to just think about the best possible future for our youth.

With this money we hired a consultant to assess the career development needs of our youth. Over a four-month period, our consultant surveyed hundreds of youth, parents, volunteers and staff. With the accumulated data, our consultant designed a five-year youth employment strategy for our organization. We returned to RBC with our findings and they, in turn, graciously provided an additional $30,000 to support the development and implementation of our employment program called “Skilled 4 Success.” We are so excited to move forward with implementing this much needed youth employment strategy.

We pride ourselves on creating a safe environment for our kids. Our staff and volunteers are as attentive and supportive as possible, so when our youth approached us with their challenges seeking employment, we knew we needed to find a solution. Without our partnership with RBC we would never have been able to set in motion the events that are occurring today. Because of RBC, youth all over Canada are being provided with the means to accomplish their dreams. Here at BGCBigs, we feel privileged to be a part of it all.

This blog post was written by Attena Keeler, a BGCBigs volunteer and student at MacEwan University

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