Looking for your first work?

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by Gilda Spitz

If you’re a young person who has looked for a job lately, you’re probably familiar with your local Youth Employment Centre. All across the province of Ontario, you can find youth employment centres that are ready to help you.

In addition to job listings and reference material, they have facilities that you may not have otherwise available – phones, fax, photocopiers, printers, Internet, and more. Even more valuable, they have friendly advisors who can provide tips on how to write your résumé, and what to say and do at an interview.

You probably recognize the names of some well-known agencies – YMCA, Youth Employment
Services (YES), and Alternative Youth Centre of Employment (AYCE), to name just a few. And you may also be familiar with agencies that cater specifically to newcomers – COSTI Immigrant
Services, Woodgreen Youth Job Centre, and more. But did you ever wonder how these agencies are able to provide their services? How do they know what kind of help you need? How do they gather their information? How do they adapt to new situations? The answer is in a website called First Work.

First Work

First Work combines employment services for young people, and guidance for the agencies that help them find jobs. It is the new name for the Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres (OAYEC), a non-profit organization that has been serving youth employment centres in Ontario since 1988.

The First Work/OAYEC website brings together links to programs that connect with young people directly, along with other services that provide help for the agencies where those programs are offered.

Hire Prospects

Hire Prospects is a social tool that employment centres can use to construct surveys with the right questions. They find young people to answer those questions, either in person or online. For example, perhaps a program that is successful in downtown Toronto might not work in Markham; or a service for teens may not be suitable for young adults. But how do they know for sure?

In addition to those who are currently looking for a job, the appropriate audience for a particular survey might be youth who are already in the workplace, or it might be young entrepreneurs who want to start their own business, says Matt Wood, Executive Director of First Work.
In fact, Hire Prospects reaches 100,000 young people in various locations across Ontario every year, 25 percent of whom are considered “at-risk” youth – those who are living in shelters or on the street.

Currently, anyone in Canada between the ages of 16 to 25 can complete the “Youth in the Recession” survey. You can find the Link on www.hireprospects.org.

New Start Lounge
The New Start Lounge is a brand new online peer learning webspace designed specifically for youth under the age of 25. Matt Wood explains that you can discuss “all things entrepreneurial” at the Lounge – including tips, advice, and challenges for young people who want to start their own business.

The New Start Lounge will celebrate its grand opening on September 16, 2009. You can visit from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the YMCA Building at 42 Charles St E, 9th floor.

Youth employment stories

A unique feature of the First Work website is its youth employment stories. Each story provides inspirational information about a real-life situation, and describes how a young person was able to resolve a serious problem.

For example, “School-to-Work” tells the story of Sandor, a young man who came to Canada at age 12, left home at 17, and ended up living on the streets and in shelters. Despite the seriousness of his situation, he eventually found valuable guidance at a youth employment centre, and was able to turn his life around and find a job. To read Sandor’s story and others, go to www.oayec.org/youth.

Innovative programs
In addition to the basic programs that most youth employment centres provide, some offer innovative services to meet specific needs. For example:

  • Instead of going to your local employment centre, how about an employment centre that comes to you? The Career Coach in Mississauga is a 37-foot-long bus, equipped with laptops, printers, Internet access, and other services required by job seekers – usually youth between the ages of 16 to 30, and newcomers of any age. No appointment is required, says Coordinator LeRoy Briggs. It visits various malls, recreation centres, and libraries, staying three to four weeks at a time. You can find similar bus programs elsewhere in Ontario too – for example, the Mobilizer in Toronto and the Career Cruiser in Hamilton.
  • What if you land an interview, but you don’t have clothes suitable to wear? You may be able to find a Clothing Bank program somewhere near you. If you qualify, you can borrow suitable clothes to wear for the day. Usually the only cost is to dry clean the clothes afterwards.

The OAYEC Members section of the First Work website provides information for over 70 individual youth employment centres across the province.

OAYEC provides its members with the help they need to learn about new programs offered by the Ontario government, and discuss current trends and problems. OAYEC supports members with government relations and strategic communications.

The Futures conference brings together over 375 professionals who work with young people seeking employment, and is Canada’s largest annual conference for professional development for youth. According to Matt Wood, this conference provides opportunities for its participants to “learn best practices” that they can apply to their own centres. The next conference will take place in Blue Mountain, Ontario, from October 21 to 23, 2009.

For more information
• For information about First Work, go to www.firstwork.ca or call 416-323-9557.
• For information on the New Start Lounge, go to www.hireprospects.org .
• For information on the Mississauga Career Coach, call 905-949-0049, ext 3223.
• For information on the Clothing Bank, ask at your local youth employment centre.

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