This project is specifically aimed at reaching youth (15-30) in the WoodBuffallo region that have disengaged from traditional education and consequently face multiple barriers on their path to employment. Low educational attainment in these youth is reflected in low literacy/numeracy levels and serious deficits in essential skills such as communication, ability to work with others and the use of technology. These deficits are so significant that many are unable to access training-to-employment programs offered by regional employers such as EnCana Corporation.
Moreover, lack of success in school has built considerable negative associations with education. As a result, those who need skill upgrading the most can be the hardest to reach as they are often resistant to participating in skill training programs—especially when those programs resemble their previous (negative) school experiences. In a world where continuous learning is itself an essential skill for getting and staying employed, this creates further barriers to entering and remaining in the labour force.
Consequently, this project proposes a new approach to reaching these multi-barriered youth for skills development. The strategy for project implementation will be to actively engage youth as “agents of change” within their own community, making real-life community development activities the central focus of the learning process. These Community Development Internships will capitalize on the natural agitation and desire for change of this age group and provide an entirely different mechanism for skill development; one that is not focussed on typical classroom based instruction. All core competencies will be taught and reinforced within the context of meaningful and purposeful activity—increasing not only skills but engagement, belonging, self-esteem and retention. This, in turn, will generate increased interest in a positive future for themselves and their community and build an understanding of how further development of academic and work related skills could be of value.
Core Competencies will include (but are not limited to):
- functional literacies in communication, math and technology
- emotional and social skills such as self-regulation, priority setting, positive work ethic, common courtesy and manners
- essential skills such as the ability to think, collaborate and make decisions
- learning skills like knowing how to learn; understanding your own learning style; and knowing how to access learning opportunities and resources