Ministries combine to empower youth with new program

Goal of Build Back Better is to help through impacts of COVID-19

A new provincial program is targeting youth to help their communities come back from the impact of COVID-19.

Build Back Better, a $5-million Youth Community Partnership program, was created to engage youth, according to a media release from BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

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"We recognize that COVID-19 continues to dramatically impact young people's prospects for work, which they typically use to leverage future job prospects or to pay for their education or training," stated Melanie Mark, minister of advanced education, skills and training. "Now, more than ever, young people are looking for ways to support themselves, while giving back to their communities. Engaging in safe, physically distanced local projects is an incredible opportunity for young people to acquire new skills, earn money and contribute to building back an even better BC."

Communities around the province can apply to fund a community-service project such as trail building, a beach cleanup or invasive species removal, upgrading local parks or working for a local charity. The projects provide skills and work experience to young people who are unemployed, between 15-29 years of age. Participants will benefit by applying the work-related skills and experience they gain on various projects in further education, employment or future careers, according to the release.

"I encourage communities around BC to take advantage of the program," stated Shane Simpson, minister of social development and poverty reduction. "These grants will help youth build their skill sets, gain work experience and help rebuild their communities as the province begins economic recovery from COVID-19."

Local governments, non-profit community and environmental organizations, employer associations, chambers of commerce and Indigenous communities are encouraged to apply. Applicants can receive grants of up to $10,000 per youth for projects running up to 16 weeks. The youth then receive a training stipend of up to $2,000 per four-week period (to a maximum of $8,000) for work between June and October 31.

Participants can also receive wraparound supports like bus passes, child care, work boots and personal protective equipment for the work, which will incorporate physical distancing and include no more than 10 youth per project.

The funding is being provided by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training ($2 million) and the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction ($3 million) through the Canada-BC Workforce Development Agreement and Labour Market Development Agreement, which helps Canadians get training, develop their skills, gain work experience and find employment.

Many of the programs funded under these agreements help members of under-represented groups, such as Indigenous peoples, youth, older workers and newcomers to Canada overcome barriers to their full participation in the labour market.

The unemployment rate for youth in BC aged 15 to 24 years was 28.9% in May 2020, up from 24.2% in April.

Compared to May 2019, the unemployment rate for youth has risen 20.2 percentage points. (BC Stats)

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