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Opening Doors for Youth: New Mentorship Initiative Targets Youth Facing Barriers

TORONTO (September 23, 2015) – Today CivicAction, and United Way Toronto & York Region came together to launch netWORKS, a youth focused networking and mentoring initiative for the Greater Toronto Area that taps into companies and organizations from across the region. Doors open to more opportunities when young people have strong networks. Yet in the city of Toronto alone, more than 80,000 young people face barriers to employment, a problem that affects thousands more youth across the region.

With access to the right people often being the missing link to career success, this new mentorship initiative, currently in the pilot phase, aims to level the playing field for youth facing barriers to employment by developing the professional networks they need to succeed. “netWORKS aims to give youth facing barriers the connections they need to get on a better path,” said Sevaun Palvetzian, CEO, CivicAction. “When these youth succeed, our city-region also thrives”.

CivicAction’s research on youth unemployment found that youth facing barriers need mentors and the private sector is eager for coaching opportunities. By coming together, United Way Toronto & York Region, CivicAction, and are linking barriered youth and the community agencies that help them with mentors, leveraging an industrial strength technology platform to support these connections.

“netWORKS is an incredibly innovative solution that will test how we best link supply and demand — and provide a new way for young people to build their network, have career conversations, and make meaningful connections,” said Susan McIsaac, President and CEO, United Way Toronto & York Region. “We’re proud to be part of this initiative as a fundamental component of our new Youth Success Strategy.”
The online hub – powered by – is a 21st century solution that empowers youth to seek career opportunities by connecting with professionals on a platform.

“Youth still face one major challenge: access to opportunity, but bridges this gap by embracing the newest technology and the power of conversation,” said Dave Wilkin, Founder, “Access to the right people will kick start a career and help companies find talent they may otherwise overlook – a true win-win that starts with a coffee chat.”

The first wave of Employers and community agencies participating include:

  • Community MicroSkills Development Centre
  • St. Stephen’s Community House
  • The City of Toronto
  • Tropicana Community Services
  • WoodGreen Community Services
  • Accenture
  • BMO Financial Group
  • College of Carpenters and Allied Trades
  • RBC
  • TD Bank Group
  • Virgin Mobile Canada

The Hon. Tracy MacCharles, Ontario Minister of Child and Youth Services, was on hand for the event. “netWORKS creates a positive environment to learn new skills, build confidence and engage youth. The Government of Ontario is proud to support a program that empowers young people to overcome employment barriers by giving them access to jobs and mentorship opportunities,” said MacCharles.


Our thanks to CNW Group for sponsoring this announcement.

About netWORKS and How to Get Involved
Because the young people participating in netWORKS need connections, but also wrap around social support, this phase of the program is closed as we learn and model how best to serve these youth. It’s important that we put a spotlight on the issue of youth unemployment. Help raise awareness by sharing your networking or mentoring story on social media using #netWORKSconnects. Sign up for updates on netWORKS and future engagement opportunities at

About CivicAction
For over a decade, CivicAction has played the role of neutral sandbox, bringing together senior executives and rising leaders from all sectors to tackle challenges facing the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. netWORKS falls under CivicAction’s Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers initiative. The Escalator initiative has been funded by the Ontario government under the Ontario Youth Action Plan. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @CivicActionGTHA.

About United Way Toronto & York Region
United Way Toronto & York Region is a charity dedicated to creating opportunities for a better life for everyone from the waterfront of downtown Toronto to the southern shore of Lake Simcoe. Working in partnership with others, we mobilize people and resources to support a network of agencies that help people when they need it most. United Way also addresses the root causes of social problems, working to change community conditions for the better over the long term. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @unitedwaytyr.

About is the world’s largest website to unlock opportunity for youth by making access to the right professionals more effective, efficient, and equal. We help organizations of all sizes gain better access to the next generation to drive innovation, employment, entrepreneurship, and education outcomes – all through the power of coffee conversations. Visit to join and learn how you can get involved.

For more information, please contact:

Sarah Harris
Director of Communications CivicAction
Sophia Zhang
Partnership Lead
Laura Quinn
Senior Manager,Communications
United Way Toronto & York Region