In 2018, RBC donated $30,000 in support of the implementation of Youth Employment Programs in our agency. These youth employment programs provide job readiness coaching and skill training, as well as professional networks and job opportunities for youth who have neither. According to Statistics Canada, 73% of youth get their first job from their parent’s network which means that youth without parental networks are limited in their opportunities for employment. For children living in poverty, this is a significant struggle. When our kids approached us with this problem, it was RBC that stepped in to help us create our Youth Employment Programs.
One year later, we have 4 clubs running Youth Employment Groups, 25 youth who have participated in said groups, and 14 youth who have received jobs through the Youth Employment Program – and this is just the beginning. Our Youth Employment Coordinator, Natalie shared with me that the goal for these programs is to provide youth with the skills and networks necessary for a healthy transition into adulthood. Natalie works hard to implement programs and engage youth that might not have these kinds of support at home. She personally mentors youth, helping them improve their resumes, their professionalism, and even preps them for interviews. One of Natalie’s largest challenges is finding corporations who are willing to partner with BGCBigs to hire our youth. In February, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada partnered with Gap Inc. to provide youth with employment. They piloted their new This Way Ahead program in Edmonton and all youth who attended hiring events and submitted applications were given tours of the store and the opportunity to interview.
A rather special partnership between BGCBigs and the Kingsway McDonald’s developed through community minded individuals reaching out to one another. Local Franchisee Joseph Gebran noticed the challenges his McDonalds faced due to its inner city location. He knew he needed the community’s support in order to increase safety and inclusivity and he began by instating “Coffee with a Cop,” a program that allowed community members to visit with local police officers and discuss community issues and potential solutions over a cup of coffee. Joe also learned that the youth in his community faced their own unique challenges due to their location. Poverty had many of them wondering “how do I afford bus passes to get to school?” He reached out to the Spruce Avenue Junior High School to provide tours and field trips of his business in hopes that it might get more kids invested in their futures and off the streets. Joe’s intention was to build a sense of community so that everyone felt like they were on the same side. As inclusivity within the neighborhood increased, so did the health of the neighborhood.
Hearing of Joe’s inspiring community-minded initiatives, Natalie reached out to see if he would be willing to partner with BGCBigs and provide employment opportunities for some of our local youth. It was the perfect fit. I visited with Asma, one of the youth Joe has hired, to hear her perspective.
Asma is a friendly grade 12 student with cheerful dimples and a bright personality. She moved to Canada with her parents from Somalia in 2017, leaving behind her three beloved older siblings who stayed back because of work opportunities. Asma tells me that none of her friends can find jobs, but that through BGCBigs, she has had multiple opportunities to develop job skills. Two summers ago she attended the Teen Takeover (a BGCBigs job readiness fair held every year at a local high-school). Through the connections developed there, she was hired by BGCBigs as a Spring Break Programmer. The following year she was hired to work in the Taste for Kids Juice Shack, a BGCBigs partnership with Taste of Edmonton. This year, through her own initiative and with the support of Natalie, she was interviewed and hired by McDonalds. Though she was quite nervous for the interview, Natalie’s mentoring and interview preparation came in handy and Asma got the job. Laughing, she tells me that her manager asked if she likes to cook. Asma responded, “I don’t like to cook, but I’ll try!” Her willingness to engage in things that are difficult and learn new skills make her a great employee. I asked her what she has learned from working at McDonalds. She tells me,
“Sometimes you have bad days and you have to deal with people who are upset because their order gets messed up. But you learn to let the bad days go. Every day is an opportunity to learn something, and I think I am getting better at dealing with people and stressful situations.” – Asma, Grade 12 Student
I can already tell that these are life skills that will benefit Asma far into her future. Asma wants to work in the healthcare system someday and is looking into a few NAIT programs that she finds interesting. For now, she continues on with her high school education and learning how to budget her new income. Whenever her friends ask how she got her job, she tells them, “through BGCBigs! Come to the after-school programs, they can help you!”
The success we’ve seen through our Youth Employment Program is a result of like-minded individuals collaborating on behalf of the youth in our community. We couldn’t accomplish what we do without the support of our generous and invested funders like RBC and partnerships with community minded corporations like Joe’s McDonalds. On behalf of Asma, and the other youth who have gained employment and job-readiness skills, thank you! Investing in our kids means investing in the future of our communities, and like Joe shared with me, “It pays to build stronger communities.”