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OPINION: Changing gears to hire young people

Published in the Toronto Sun
By Sevaun Palvetzian

Everyone today is talking about the future of work.

Studies say that as much as 40% of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of being affected by automation in the next decade or two. From the boardroom table to the kitchen table, we’re all left wondering when robots are coming for our jobs.

We’re so focused on the future problem that we’re not paying enough attention to the young people that are already being left behind. For youth in search of a job and ultimately a career, not landing that first opportunity is like trying to travel without a passport — you won’t get far without it.

First jobs give young people the chance to develop essential skills like teamwork, communications and problem-solving and we know youth are hungry for these opportunities. So why are so many entry-level roles not being filled? The issue is that the talent pipeline in Toronto has changed drastically – it’s young, diverse, and needs different things – but HR practices haven’t caught up.

Here are four reasons why employers of every size and industry should take a look at their HR practices now when it comes to hiring and retaining young people:

  1. You’re missing out on untapped talent. There are over 80,000 youth in the Toronto region that are not working, in school or in a training program. At the same time, 70% of employers said their biggest challenge to filling entry-level roles was finding applicants. Want to find new and different applicants? Keep the language friendly and go to where young people are – on social media or post opportunities via local community organizations.
  2. The wisdom of crowds wins, every time. By tapping into young talent that has traditionally had barriers to employment, you will be able to increase diversity of thought and perspectives within your organization. The 2017 Diversity Dividend report found that a 1% increase in workforce diversity yielded an average revenue growth of 2.4% across sectors. But to attract diversity, you need to present diversity – young people need to see that they belong; look for cultural add versus cultural fit.
  3. Our workforce is changing. In 2016, individuals age 55 and up accounted for over one-third of the working-age population. By 2025, millennials will be 75% of our global workforce. New generations are bringing new workplace expectations with them and employers need to be competitive in meeting their needs. Flexible work arrangements and better supports for mental health are about to become the norm, not the exception.
  4. Saves dollars and makes cents. Experience is not always an indicator of a great candidate, particularly for entry-level roles. Hiring for skillsets like problem-solving and investing in mentorship can reduce the time and costs of people leaving.

CivicAction and a coalition of employers have launched of HireNext, a set of free, in-demand tools for employers to recruit, select and retain the young, diverse talent they need in their organization. To see what other organizations have done, visit

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