“While the city-wide unemployment rate was 6.4% in 2015, Ottawa’s youth unemployment rate was 15.4%,” said Marco Pagani, President & CEO of the Ottawa Community Foundation. “That is the highest it’s been in over a decade1 and the highest rate among Canada’s six largest cities. That’s why the Foundation felt it was the right time to take a new approach.”
The NLCC awards $125,000 annually to an innovative project that proposes feasible solutions in an area of strategic focus. And for the past three years, that focus has been on helping youth – especially vulnerable youth – acquire the right skills and access meaningful employment opportunities. Towards that end, three different projects have received NLCC funding to take action on youth employment.
In 2016, the OCF presented the grant to LiveWorkPlay whose Pie in the Sky initiative was designed to bring employees with intellectual disabilities and Ottawa employers together for mutual benefit.
LiveWorkPlay is a charitable organization based in Ottawa that helps the community welcome people with intellectual disabilities to live, work, and play as valued citizens. The Pie in the Sky initiative capitalized on their human resources expertise and network of employers, as well as a successful pilot project, to target the creation of 100 jobs for young people with intellectual disabilities. As of 2017, they were more than halfway towards their goal.
In 2017, the grant was presented to Youth Active Media, a project of the Social Planning Council of Ottawa. Youth Active Media (YAM) both teaches and engages youth in digital media production on social issues. YAM works with at-risk youth and conducts hands on training in marketable media production skills by mentoring them as they produce compelling videos on local topics in conjunction with partner agencies and community groups.
Among the skills being taught are videography and video editing, audio recording and editing, lighting, scriptwriting, directing, interviewing and more. In today’s media-saturated world digital storytelling skills are highly valuable in the workplace. YAM offers creative and ambitious youth an opportunity to learn, to gain professional experience and to create portfolios to further their professional education or getting work in the field.
Topping off the event, several donors came forward immediately following the presentations to help fund the other two finalists’ projects, increasing the total grant amount for 2017 to $315,000 – a New Leaf Community Challenge first!
In 2018, the winning team was comprised of the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation and Global Vision. Their Youth+ project will support 180 youth from diverse, low-income backgrounds to pursue careers in Ottawa’s fastest growing industries such as IT, clean technology and tourism. Youth+ will offer industry roundtables, local industry tours, internship opportunities, training in areas such as leadership and entrepreneurship, and opportunities for life-changing experiences at both national and international levels.
Furthermore, in 2018, the RBC Foundation announced their commitment to ensure funding is available for the implementation of all three finalists’ proposals, marking an important expansion of the fund’s capacity and reach. The other finalists of the 2018 New Leaf Community Challenge, which presented equally compelling proposals, were:
- Relay Education’s Green Collar Careers (GCC) will help connect youth to a range of “green career” opportunities.
- Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre’s GeneratioNeXt Ward 13, a bilingual employment and entrepreneurship incubation program offering services to youth aged 13 to 29 living in Ottawa’s east end.
All of these groups are taking action to combat youth unemployment in Ottawa and to build a brighter future for everyone. They are not alone; however, as youth employment is a complex and multi-faceted issue.
If you would like to take action on youth employment, either by volunteering, donating or partnering to provide opportunities for training or on the job learning, please get in touch. We can help connect you to some passionate and very capable people who are making a difference here in Ottawa!
For more information:
Director, Grants and Community Knowledge
Ottawa Community Foundation
613-236-1616 ext. 222
1. The youth unemployment rates were: 12.7 in 2014, 13.6 in 2016, and 13.1 in 2017.