Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers

Click the photo to see our Flickr album of the Escalator launch event

Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers brings together private, public and community sector leaders to tackle the issue of unemployment for youth facing barriers. 9.5% of Ontario youth are not in employment, education or training. Research suggests that the cumulative lifetime burden to society of youth who are most disconnected from the labour market is $1 million per youth. At the same time, many industries face labour shortages, low retention rates and high recruitment costs. The costs to business and society are significant.


Over the last three years (see our Timeline), we successfully launched a number of programs which are making a difference in the lives of young people across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region, with the potential to inform initiatives across the province.

  • netWORKS: Over 700 youth and 270 mentors have been engaged in netWORKS, a career-oriented networking and mentoring program, led by United Way of Toronto & York Region. 83% of netWORKS mentees have gained a better understanding of the credentials and skills they might need to succeed in different industries. 81% of mentees have a better understanding of the kinds of careers they might be interested in and 78% are more confident in their ability to find meaningful employment. 
  • YouthConnect:  Over 600 front-line youth workers with the capacity to reach approximately 25,000 youth, as well as 150 youth and almost 70 employers have been trained on 21st century job-search skills, in partnership with LinkedIn Canada. YouthConnect will be delivered by the CivicAction Leadership Foundation moving forward.
  • NPower Canada: Over 250 students have graduated (50% women) from NPower, which trains young people facing barriers and matches them with paid internships in the technology sector. 80% of graduates enter full-time employment or pursue post-secondary education within 6 months of graduating.

We are proud of our accomplishments to date and continue to scale these interventions, but know that there is more work to be done to level the playing field for youth facing barriers.


In 2016, CivicAction embarked on a new phase of work, developing evidence-based tools to help HR leaders identify and address barriers within their organizations that may hinder the success of young people. To do so, we convened a world-class group of Special Advisors to inform our efforts and conducted consultations across Ontario. Working with employers, we are:

  • Developing a self-assessment tool that employers can use to identify barriers within their workplaces that inhibit the successful recruitment, hiring, retention and development of young people. 
  • Working with case study companies, such as RBC, H&M, Starbucks, Real Food for Real Kids, and Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, to test and document new HR practices to be more inclusive to youth.
  • Convening sector-based peer roundtables with our case study companies to share lessons learned and inspire action from other employers.
  • Documenting best practices in an employer toolkit which other organizations can use to undertake similar efforts to enhance the success of young people facing barriers.


Escalator has benefited from the tremendous leadership of a number of partners from across all sectors.

Thanks to our Project Partners:

Our Employer Case Study Partners:

And Our In-Kind Supporters and Organizational Partners: