Escalator: Companies and Youth Moving Up In the World

Escalator brings together private, public and community sectors and uses innovative solutions to tackle unemployment for opportunity youth across Ontario. Escalator aims to unlock our full business and talent potential and create an environment where companies and youth moving up in the world together.

In Ontario, there are currently over 300,000 youth not in employment, education, or training. Unemployment rates are disproportionately high for certain groups including new Canadians, racialized youth, and young people that have experienced poverty – we call these opportunity youth. On the flip side, employers are having difficulty attracting and retaining for entry-level roles. More can be done to connect supply and demand and to unlock currently untapped young talent.

Since launching in 2014, CivicAction has developed action-oriented strategies to help close the skills gap, make the job market more transparent, and give new networks to youth – all of which has helped connect thousands of youth to new opportunities.

Here are some early results:


800+ youth and 250+ 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 and 78% are more confident in their ability to find meaningful employment. Find out more here


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. As of 2017, YouthConnect is delivered by the CivicAction Leadership Foundation. Find out more here

NPower Canada

400+ students have graduated (50% women) from NPower Canada, 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. Find out more here

Working with employers, CivicAction is:

  • 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 and Starbucks, to test and document new HR practices to be more inclusive to youth.

  • Convening sector-based peer roundtables 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 opportunity youth.

Enabling youth to be their very best selves and helping them prepare for the jobs of tomorrow is a shared ideal of CivicAction and RBC. By tapping into diverse, young talent our workforce will reflect our communities and ensure no one is left behind. This is about building inclusive prosperity. CivicAction’s work on Escalator is helping companies see their role in solving the issue of youth unemployment by building critical new channels between youth and employers. 

Zabeen Hirji, Special Advisor and former Chief Human Resources Officer, RBC


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