Zach describes himself as having been a shy kid, quiet and unassuming. That is, until he decided to stretch himself and get out of his comfort zone. During his grade eleven year Zach attended Teen Takeover, a Job Readiness Fair organized by BGCBigs and hosted at a local high-school. He listened to panelists talk about their respective industries, attended classes geared towards improving job readiness, and signed up to receive emails from BGCBigs about employment opportunities and interviews. He walked away feeling empowered, but this was just the start of Zach’s journey.
A few weeks after attending Teen Takeover, Zach received an email for a job listing with BGCBigs as a “Summer Junior Leader.” Again, he took the initiative, stepped outside his comfort zone, and applied for the position. He got the job! As part of the program, he received feedback and training about how to interview for jobs, attended a Hospitality Industry Event at the Fairmont Hotel, and learned that he loves working with kids. What an opportunity, that Zach would never have received if he hadn’t attended that very first Teen Takeover.
The following year he eagerly attended Teen Takeover again, this time as an active participant. His experience in the past had taught him that going outside of his comfort zone paid off. He was learning new skills and seeing the rewards of trying new things.
Zach continued to receive support through the Youth Employment Program. His mentor at East Glen High-school helped him consider different career options, and Zach attended a Career Event organized through BGCBigs at Old Navy. With a few other youth and volunteers, Zach toured the store, asked questions about retail, and attended a group interview. He mentioned what a great opportunity this was because it was only the second time he had ever had attended a job interview, so he was able to learn and receive feedback. Our Youth Employment Specialist here at BGCBigs, Natalie Steffl, was able to arrange networking interviews with Zach as he expressed interest in other industries. He spoke with an Edmonton based welder over Zoom and looked into welding programs at NAIT.
Since graduating, Zach has decided to pursue nursing through the LPN program offered at NorQuest College. He hopes to work with kids, and credits his experience as a Summer Junior Leader as showing him how much he enjoys working with children. He’s grateful for the opportunities the Youth Employment Program has provided for him, stating, “I would recommend this program to everyone!”
Our Youth Employment Program supports youth who may find it difficult to navigate employment without a supportive community. According to Statistics Canada, 73% of youth obtain their first job through their parents’ network, so for families who have recently emigrated from another country, their network may be limited. We can help provide the experiences and opportunities that they need to achieve healthy, successful, futures. With the help of generous partners like the Edmonton Community Foundation, 48 youth have received jobs, and over 230 others have received job readiness training and instruction.
Our partners are crucial to the success of the Youth Employment Program. The Edmonton Community Foundation has supported BGCBigs from the very beginning. They helped us pilot our Youth Employment Program in 2018 and provided over $100,000 in support of the youth in our community. Thank you, Edmonton Community Foundation, for seeing the potential in our kids and providing foundational opportunities that will lead to future success.
While Zach has increased his job readiness skill set, his confidence has also grown. He says “before the program if I had an interview, my heart would just drop. It was nerve-wracking, but after doing the program I am more confident, and I don’t even think I would be nervous now.” We hope all youth who attend our program can experience this kind of confidence and hope for the future.