The Need for Economic Opportunities
Within Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, Black youth and their families continue to face barriers to achieving financial stability. Issues of poverty, racism, failures of the education system, family challenges and stigmatization of priority neighborhoods are challenges our young people must navigate every day.
While current statistics are extremely difficult to find, we know that in 2006 the unemployment rate for Black youth in Canada aged 15-24 was 21.4% and 16.5% for youth aged 20-24. As of 2001, nearly 40% of Toronto residents of Continental African descent lived below the low-income cut-off line as did over 20% of those of Caribbean descent.
During our focus groups the realities of these statistics came to life, as youth outlined their struggles around finding work and gaining access to economic opportunities. Based on the nearly 100 participating youth, our team identified four impact areas that CEE should work to incorporate in all our activities:
- Increasing Business and Career Knowledge: Youth felt that knowing how to run a business and learning how to work in a professional environment would be an asset in their future endeavors.
- Building Networks among Community Members, Youth and Businesses: Youth spoke of a lack of support and assistance within their community to help them develop their businesses, or find a career.
- Providing Concrete Evidence of Youth Success: Youth want to know that they will be learning a useful skill from programming they are taking part in. They spoke of a desire for feedback and evaluation to be built into the program to ensure the program was actually teaching them what it had promised to teach. Finally they requested that they gain some sort of accreditation or certification upon completion that employers would respect.
- Providing Employment/Increase Employability: Youth spoke about the many barriers to employment they face, and about how they need employment opportunities that will place them on the pathway to meaningful careers.
The research also recommended that CEE activities take a holistic approach that provides needed life supports to young people, recognizes the complexity of Black identity in Toronto, are carried out in a safe and professional manner and involve individuals or organizations that have proven track records for success.