Escalator: Companies and Youth Moving Up




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.

Canada has 779,000 young people aged 15 to 29 who are not in employment, education or training. At the same time, 70% of employers said their biggest challenge to filling entry-level roles was finding applicants. Despite both supply and demand for young talent, youth and employers aren’t always finding each other, especially when it comes to opportunity youth who may currently face additional barriers to employment. 

Escalator recognizes that 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 (see results below).

To tackle more systemic barriers to employment, CivicAction launched HireNext – a set of free, easy-to-use, in-demand tools for employers to recruit, select and retain young, diverse talent.

Automation, the rise of part-time and contract work, artificial intelligence, and other major shifts are transforming work in the GTHA. How might we equip workers, especially youth, with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in this new reality and engage employers, governments, and educational institutions in the solutions? Through YouthConnect, we’ll tackle facing the Future of Work by providing new curriculum and skills training programs focused on critical skills like financial literacy, resiliency, personal branding, collaboration and more.

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Here are some early results:


1,938 youth enrolled in netWORKS, a career-oriented networking and mentoring program, led by United Way of Toronto & York Region. While 14 employers hosted 45 networking sessions and provided various supports to youth since 2015. Plus, 723 youth connected with industry leaders at one or more group networking sessions, gaining fresh perspectives and building key professional connections.

Find out more here


750 front-line youth workers with the capacity to reach approximately 32,000 youth, as well as 400 youth and almost 100 employers have been trained on 21st century job-search skills, in partnership with LinkedIn Canada. 95% of youth workers felt better prepared to support their youth in articulating their transferable skills to employers. As of 2017, YouthConnect is delivered by the CivicAction Leadership Foundation. Find out more here.

NPower Canada

1000+ students have graduated (43% women) from NPower Canada, which trains young people facing barriers and matches them with paid internships in the technology sector. 84% of graduates enter full-time employment or pursue post-secondary education within 6 months of graduating. Find out more here


HireNext is a new set of tools that will help employers tap into new, young talent while levelling the playing field for youth currently left out of the labour market. These free tools are comprised of best practices, case studies, videos, and a quick, easy to use and confidential assessment tool that gives employers tailored recommendations. Already, employers of all sizes and industries have signed up to participate and complete one change using the HireNext tools by the end of 2018. Find out more here.

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, Chair, CivicAction and former Chief Human Resources Officer, RBC


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