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Toronto’s Youth Employment Action Plan Update

In this deputation, Local 79 President Tim Maguire provides input to the members of the Economic Development Committee on Toronto’s Youth Employment Action Plan.

Dear Councillor Thompson and Committee Members,

ED8.2 Toronto’s Youth Employment Action Plan Update

According to a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) titled The Young and the Jobless: Youth Unemployment in Ontario, the problem of youth unemployment may be worse than we realize.

One reason for this is the focus on reporting unemployment versus employment rates. For example, the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area, cited in the staff report, lists the youth unemployment rate at 18%, whereas the CCPA reports that the Toronto youth employment rate was only 43.5% in 2013 for the same age cohort of 15 – 24 year olds.

Unemployment rates do not capture all people who would like to work but are unable to do so. This includes individuals who are taking unpaid labour, seeking further education, participating in the informal economy, or those who have simply given up searching for employment. In addition, both unemployment and employment rates overlook how young workers are more likely to be precariously employed in insecure, unstable, nonpermanent positions. Given the scope of this problem, we can’t afford to lose any supports for youth employment and inclusion.

The City has an important role to play in support of youth employment outcomes, including leveraging its role as an employer, furthering its provision of employment services and supports, and demonstrating good budget decisions that support employment opportunities.

The City as Employer

According to the City’s Operating Variance report at this month’s Budget Committee, the City has a current staff vacancy of 2,578.9 unfilled positions below the approved complement. The City can leverage its economic power to stimulate job growth and increase its percentage of the under 30 workforce by filling staff vacancies.

Moreover, the City establishes its staff complement to meet the needs of communities, which includes youth. Short staffing compromises service levels when workers are expected to do more to cover unfilled positions.

In a recent survey of Local 79 City of Toronto workers, 80% of respondents felt that while staffing levels have stayed the same, the demand for services has increased. And only 32.7% of respondents indicated that their workplace environment has sufficient equipment and resources to provide the services they are required to deliver. As a result, City staff are expected to hold the line on services with fewer resources and growing demand. To emphasize, poverty and precarious employment contribute to the growing need for these services.

Increasing Access to Services

The staff report indicates that youth who have multiple barriers to employment require more intensive supports, skills training and specialized services and assessments. TO Prosperity: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy also made the important connection between poverty and precarious employment. Accordingly, employment supports and services are an important tool to secure the economic future of Toronto’s youth.

Astonishingly, some of our key City Divisions that provide supports and services to vulnerable youth are themselves under-staffed. The Operating Variance reported that Parks, Forestry and Recreation has over 200 vacant staff positions.

Low income residents require individualized services due to the complex nature of poverty, and youth in particular, who face multiple employment barriers, will require more intense supports. If the City wants to fulfill its commitment of delivering various employment services and supports as part of the Youth Employment Action Plan, it needs to ensure Divisions have the staff resources they need to provide services to vulnerable Toronto youth.

The City has already endorsed this measure in its Poverty Reduction Strategy recommendation 14.6, which prioritizes the need to protect and increase service levels for the provision of effective services and infrastructure for vulnerable residents, including youth.

The City can achieve its service commitments by demonstrating good budget decisions that support employment opportunities for youth.

Budgeting for Employment Opportunities

The Mayor’s current proposed 2% cut across the board will put further pressure on Divisions as they try to fill staff vacancies and provide for an increased demand and need for services influenced by unemployment and poverty rates in Toronto. According to the 2015 Toronto Vital Signs Report, Toronto has been named “Canada’s capital of working poverty”. As stated earlier, even when youth are employed, it is most often in precarious, unstable positions.

In addition to some of the City’s current efforts, the City should consider re-instating the Youth Employment Toronto Program (YET).

For 30 years, Youth Employment Toronto placed, on average, 300 youth per year in employment and demonstrated that working one-on-one with youth facing multiple barriers is the most efficient and effective way to connect youth to jobs. Regrettably, the Federal grant supporting this program and accounting for 85% of the program’s Operating Costs, was rescinded suddenly last year. Local 79 fought hard to save this program because it had life-changing benefits for the youth involved. Despite the success of the program, City Council failed to pass Member Motion 51.28 by Councillor Joe Mihevc and Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, which would have restored funding for the program through the City budget.

I strongly encourage Council, and especially new members of Council who may not be familiar with the merits of this program, to look at re-instating the Youth Employment Toronto Program during the 2016 budget deliberations if they are serious about the Youth Employment Action Plan. The loss of Federal Funding left a shortfall of approximately $400,000. City Operations is reporting a gross under-expenditure of $104.538 million at the end of 2015, due in large part to lower caseloads for TESS. The YET program, which was formerly administered by SDFA, could be comfortably transferred to the TESS operating budget for 2016 where TESS has already reported a $9.441 million net under-expenditure as of September 2015.

In addition, and given the change in Federal government, City Council should request the City Manager to write to the newly appointed Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, to strongly advocate for the restoration of funding to the YET program.

Finally, I want to commend the City’s efforts through the creation of the Youth Employment Advisory Committee. Local 79 represents approximately 20,000 City of Toronto workers, which includes many part-time youth workers, particularly in the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division. I would like to offer the support of Local 79 in furthering the Advisory Committee’s objectives to support employment opportunities for youth, and welcome the opportunity to meet and participate in the City and Committee’s efforts.

Thank you,

Tim Maguire