Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
I am happy that the committee has decided to study the matter of experiential learning for Canadian youth. Investing in experiential learning has proven very lucrative for the young people who join the labour market. Being given an opportunity to learn about one's profession is particularly important for vulnerable youth who might not have the opportunity to do so otherwise. I thank you for doing this important work.
This afternoon I'd like to discuss the multiple measures our government is putting in place to address this situation and the results we've achieved to date on this issue. I'm also going to give you a broad overview of the kinds of enduring challenges that our country will be facing in the coming years and how we intend to respond as we move forward.
First of all, investing in work-integrated learning pays huge dividends in the success of young people in the labour market. Getting a foot in the door or a chance to learn about the profession is particularly critical for vulnerable youth as well, who might not have the opportunity to get that chance otherwise. We need to provide youth with the tools, the education, the training, and the opportunities they need to fully succeed in their chosen careers.
Around the world, the labour market is evolving, and we need to keep pace. Job requirements continue to change, and workers' credentials are not necessarily matching the skills that employers are seeking. We need to put greater emphasis on essential skills and something that employers tell me about all the time: soft skills, such as how to manage a difficult employee and how to answer a phone and provide good customer service no matter what occupation you're in, as well as digital skills.
We need to make sure that all young Canadians have a fair chance to succeed. Providing opportunities for workplace experience is an important part of our effort to do just that, as work experience is critical to a successful transition for youth from school to work. These opportunities benefit young people. Of course, employers often offer higher starting salaries to graduates who have work placement experience.
Apprenticeship is also a proven model for transitioning into well-paying jobs in the skilled trades, which are in such great demand. In fact, more than 80% of apprentices were successful in securing employment in 2015.
I'm going to give you some examples of what we've put in place to support Canada's young people to help them transition to the workplace.
The facts show that work experience is the key to a successful transition for youth. Employers generally offer high starting salaries to graduates who have practical experience. The labour market is evolving, and the help we provide to facilitate the transition from school to the workplace must follow suit.
We've provided learning opportunities through the career focus stream of the youth employment strategy, which supported over 6,500 youth in finding work placements in 2016-17. We've also nearly doubled Canada Summer Jobs compared to the previous government.
We recently launched a new partnership with industry and post-secondary education institutes to offer 10,000 new work-integrated learning placements for students in the STEM fields and business, with an investment of $73 million over four years. In addition to our investments in student placements through Mitacs, we'll help create up to 60,000 paid work placements over the next five years.
We've also put in place measures to ensure that young Canadians are always appropriately compensated for their work placement internships. Bill includes amendments to the Canada Labour Code that would prohibit unpaid internships within federally regulated private sectors unless they are part of the requirements for an educational program and ensure that interns who are unpaid are covered by labour standard protections such as maximum hours of work, weekly days of rest, and general holidays.
We know that young people make better decisions about their education and career path when they have good data and information that helps them make those decisions. The OECD and other research confirms that good-quality and timely information and advice play an important role in informing young people's aspirations. For this reason, we've enhanced the Canada job bank, and we're going to continue to modernize it with current technology platforms so that it will be youth-centred and user-friendly, something that all the young people in my life are quite excited about.
On another note, I cannot stress enough how much financial assistance is essential to removing barriers to post-secondary education. We've made very important enhancements in this area. For example, we increased non-repayable Canada student grants by 50% and made them available to more students from low- and middle-income families. This means that starting in the 2017-18 school year, over 400,000 students from low- and middle-income families will receive up to $3,000 in non-repayable financial aid each and every year. Approximately 46,000 of those students will be eligible for the first time for the Canada student grant for full-time students.
We've also introduced a fixed student contribution, allowing students who work to continue to do so without having to worry about a reduction in the amount of financial assistance they will receive. Now no student has to repay a Canada student loan until they're earning at least $25,000 a year.
We've also renewed our investment in Pathways to Education Canada for an additional four years, starting in 2018-19. If you haven't found out about this program yet, I highly encourage you to take a look. This program works to make sure that at-risk youth are able to complete high school and transition to post-secondary studies.
We continue to make significant efforts to increase the take-up of the Canada learning bond. In May of 2017 an important milestone was reached: one million Canadian children are now enrolled and have more affordable post-secondary education in their future. Last week we launched a call for concepts, which is really our way to look for new and innovative ways to increase awareness and uptake of the Canada learning bond. We encourage organizations with ideas to submit their concepts by January 16, 2018.
The renewal of the youth employment strategy, or YES, gives us a really good opportunity to work with all our partners to ensure that young Canadians have all the necessary support that they need to succeed. The youth employment strategy has already produced results for young people, real results across the country over the last 20 years, but we have to acknowledge that a lot has happened in the last 20 years. Times have changed.
In addition, we are just beginning to explore the renewed Youth Employment Strategy. Your study will help to guide our work.
Your work will ensure that we can understand the new needs of young people across this country. It will also help us to understand the measures that are working well and need to stay the same, as well as what kinds of things need to change to make sure we're reaching our target goal—namely, that every young person across this country has the supports they need to access post-secondary education and to access the kinds of experiences that will help them move forward in meaningful work, good middle-class jobs, across this country.
The current study of the committee will undoubtedly greatly inform our work. Through this renewal, we're exploring four key areas for action: one, supporting smoother transitions from school to work; two, helping young people develop skills to keep pace with the changing nature of work; three, helping vulnerable youth to meet their potential; and finally, exploring how employers could play a greater leadership role in youth employment.
Provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, along with numerous stakeholders, also play a critical role, as they provide a range of supports for youth. We'll be looking at how we can increase and amplify our partnerships with all of our stakeholders. I'm very interested in learning more about how others in Canada are supporting youth transitions into the labour market. I'm also interested in lessons from other countries. We can all benefit from sharing best practices from the experiences of others in Canada and internationally.
Youth need opportunities to be active citizens and community leaders. Service and volunteer experience is another way in which young people can build skills and personal growth while giving back to the community. We'll soon be launching the design phase of a new youth service initiative. Youth will be directly engaged to build a program that responds to their interests and serves their community. This means we'll be building a program that has been designed by youth, for youth.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, we know that Canada's future prosperity depends on young Canadians getting the skills and experience that they need to succeed and that employers are looking for. This is an essential way that we can continue to ensure a growing economy in a way that works for everyone. Successful transitions from school to work represent a socio-economic win-win for us: students get the hands-on experience they need to succeed and employers find the talent they're desperately seeking.
Active, healthy citizens who are pursuing their aspirations and driving economic growth are critical for us to change and adapt this economy, which brings new challenges but, I believe, great opportunity for Canada. I have every confidence that Canadian young people will seize those opportunities if we help pave the way. We just can't afford to leave so much talent behind. We can't afford to see young Canadians either not pursuing their education or not getting jobs aligned with their skills and training, so the study that this committee is undertaking right now is extremely timely. It will greatly inform our work, and I'm very glad you've chosen it.
Thank you so much for inviting me.
It's great that you've come full circle from chairing the committee to now being to participate in the rejuvenation of the youth employment strategy.
You're absolutely right that changing technology is one of the critical components of looking at a renewed youth employment strategy. Interestingly enough, often youth are leading the way in terms of being able to adapt to technology very rapidly.
I think we have a couple of problems on our hands. One, are the academic institutions—the polytechnics, the colleges, and so forth—training for the right sets of skills that employers are looking for? Two, are employers considering new graduates as the resource they really are?
Recently, when I was announcing the work-integrated learning program, the student work placement program, I had an opportunity to meet some of the companies that will be utilizing the student work placements. Many of them talked about how great it was to see young people coming right out of school into their workplace. They talked about the benefit to their corporation. They talked about this new way of thinking, about how often young people would come with a different perspective and new solutions to old problems, and how, by the way, they were very adept at using technology and could quickly learn new systems and new ways of doing things. That's because, first of all, they were studying them, but also because they had that lens, which many times older workers struggle with. It was a real opportunity to hear not just how this will be beneficial for young people but also how employers are saying that they need students with the abilities to be flexible and to rapidly acquire knowledge in new ways.
When we provide that matchmaking program through something like, say, the student work placement program, it really does bring together young people who are desperately seeking that first paid experience and employers who are looking for talent and skill but also for that adaptability that helps their corporations grow. I saw many examples of this.
In some of the spaces I was visiting where some of the high-tech firms are doing things I can't even describe in words because I am an old person now, the workforce is very young. When I would walk onto the floor, it was astounding to me to see that oftentimes the people would be under 30. Employers told us that they see youth as an asset. We need to spread that idea throughout the employer community.
Thank you very much. That's a great question.
As you know, MP Fortier, my first role was Minister of Status of Women, so I spent a lot of time talking about the barriers that women face, especially in some of what we call non-traditional sectors, where they're dramatically under-represented. You're absolutely right that STEM is one of those areas. Though we see women choosing those courses of study more and more often, we're not seeing the corresponding numbers of women in those fields. We know that it's more than just women choosing to study in STEM; it's actually other barriers that women are facing.
We are trying to work with employers to provide additional incentives for employers to be thoughtful about how they recruit women and retain women in their sectors, which traditionally have been male-dominated. For example, the union training and innovation program, which is a program we announced last summer, is looking for unions to come forward and thoughtfully tell us what kinds of things they can do to recruit people who are under-represented, including women, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and newcomers to Canada. This is a real win-win, because also, as you may know, we have about 110,000 unfilled skilled trades positions in this country, so we really are missing an opportunity when we're even unintentionally biased in the way that we create space for women in some of these non-traditional sectors.
We also, through the student work placement program, are providing additional incentives to employers who are thoughtfully thinking about how they recruit. When they hire a woman, a person who is indigenous, a person with disabilities, or a newcomer, they will receive an additional incentive in terms of compensation to help support that hire.
Madam Minister, thank you for your presentation.
At the beginning of a study such as the one we are undertaking, I think it is important to define the role of the federal government well. We know that the constitutional power to enact laws that concern education rests with provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Federal jurisdiction applies solely to first nations education, as well as to education for the personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard and inmates in correctional facilities.
Recommendation 3 of the final report of the Expert Panel on Youth Employment has something interesting to say about the support the federal spending power provides through the Canada Social Transfer. The recommendation states that in order to rethink youth employment programs, the government of Canada should consider the possibility of transferring youth employment programs to provincial and territorial governments. The Expert Panel on Youth Employment even asks that the government make public the results of this reflexion in the course of the next 12 months.
In addition, the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum does specify that apprenticeship is regulated by the provinces and territories.
This brings me to my question. Since the role of the federal government in this matter has to be executed through partnerships with the provinces and territories, and since in your mandate letter, the prime minister asks you to cooperate with the provincial and territorial governments and post-secondary institutions, can you tell us about the partnerships you have established with the provinces and territories? In your opinion, what is the role of the federal government in those partnerships?
The revitalization is of the youth employment strategy as a whole. As you mentioned, the commitment to double Canada Summer Jobs is something we continue to work on, and we're very close to doubling it. As you mentioned, there were some challenges in the first year around employers knowing that it was available.
I want to thank all the MPs who went out and made sure that employers in their ridings knew about Canada Summer Jobs and applied. We'll continue that work to make sure that employers know about the program and know that they can apply for the program and that every student possible has an opportunity to access the program.
The work we're doing right now on the youth employment strategy includes Canada Summer Jobs, and of course we are open to looking at Canada Summer Jobs and how we can make the program better, because better is always possible. We're also looking at other aspects of the youth employment strategy, which would include things like helping people after they're finished their education to get that first job in their particular field. The student work-integrated learning program is one example.
This is part of the study you're doing, and it is a key component of the study you're doing in terms of experiential learning. We're very curious to see whether we can increase our efforts in that space.
It will also be about how we ensure that vulnerable youth get that shot at success. Many of you have skills link programs in your ridings, and when I meet some of the skills link participants across the country, I see these are the young kids of age 16 to 24 who are not in school, who are not employed, and who are often struggling with profound challenges in their life, whether it's homelessness, substance use, poor literacy skills, or just a total lack of self-confidence. We can't leave those kids behind, either, because if we do that, first we're losing out on an opportunity to have all that talent contribute to the growth of our country, and then the longer people stay unemployed, the more entrenched that becomes and the harder it becomes for them to get a job. At the end of the day, that is a cost rather than an opportunity for prosperity.
Well, I think there has always been a stigma against youth, right? We've always heard those kinds of statements about young people, but what I can tell you is that employers who have been thoughtful about including young people in their workplaces are reaping the benefits.
In fact, young people are bringing in that spirit of innovation and that new way of doing things. I think our challenge as older folks is to understand that things don't remain static, and that as the workplace and technology evolve, we need to evolve with them and be thinking about how we meaningfully include the next generation of workers.
Having said that, I think there is an opportunity, when we work closely with post-secondary institutions, employers, and young people, to work on some of those soft skills that are universal and ageless. These are the skills about basic human decency: treating each other kindly, knowing what to do when you don't get along in the workplace, answering a phone professionally, and knowing the importance of showing up on time. Those are things that some people gain throughout their life experience but others struggle with. I would say that what employers are saying is that student work placement program experiential learning gives them that opportunity to teach young people how to manage through some of those things.
As a parent of two young people myself, I can tell you that those are critical lessons. When my older son comes home and talks about the struggles he's having with his colleagues, those are real struggles. We all have those struggles, especially as we are learning how to fit into a workplace, but what employers tell us is that when they have an opportunity to work with a young person in the form of a student work placement, they can help that young person work through those challenges in a safe and supported way.
Thank you, Minister. I appreciate your being here. You've acknowledged the importance of all parties working together. Pulling in the same direction, we're much more successful.
The fact is that this was part of your mandate letter: to work in “collaboration with your colleagues” and to have “meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament” and also with “Parliamentary Committees”, so thank you for being here. You were also encouraged to set the bar higher for “openness and transparency”.
As the members of the official opposition, we support the government on issues with which we agree, and on other issues we hold the government to account when we feel the government is not heading in the right direction.
We agree that it's important that we train our youth, the next generation of leaders, to help them prepare for moving from schooling into the workforce. One thing on which I would disagree with you is older workers. I think you define them as 28 years of age. Older workers are not 28 years old: they're more like 50 years and up. They're older workers like me. I'm 67 and still going strong.
Minister, the previous government really put an importance on the trades and a growing country. The trade apprenticeship program was expanded greatly and has been very good at making sure our youth are trained in the red seal program if they have an interest in this field of work. It has opened up opportunities for the different genders, and we're quite excited about that.
You've said, Minister, that when we invest in Canadians, it's good. I'll just pass on a side note here, which is that the ice rink in front of the Prime Minister's office, the $5.6-million ice rink that will be open for a few weeks, is not a good use of taxpayers' money. Think of all the jobs and job opportunities for our youth if that $5.6 million were to be spent on helping youth.
The other point is that small business is the largest job creator in Canada, and I think the government is heading in the wrong direction in attacking our small businesses through increased taxation. A tax rate of 73% does not encourage growth in business or help youth to get jobs. It actually stifles that.
Minister, I also noticed in your mandate letter that in addition to working with committees and opposition parties and members, you're to work with the , the , the , the —you've been promoted from that—the , the , and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, but there is no minister for seniors. I would suggest—
You can start the timer. Thank you.
I think this will all make sense in a moment.
If we're all pulling in the same direction,, we will be able to accomplish much more than if we're in a rowboat and all rowing in different directions. The encouragement in the mandate letter is to work constructively.
It's my passion and my responsibility to represent Canadian seniors. There is an incredible job opportunity. You highlighted the changing workplace. Right now, we have a tremendous number of new job opportunities for our youth in geriatrics, palliative care, and home care. I've sensed in this committee to this point that there has not been an interest in seniors' issues. With you being here, , I'm hoping that may change, because that's part of your mandate: to make sure we are working together constructively.
We've heard from witnesses that there are job opportunities for youth in taking care of our aging population. There are tremendous job opportunities there, and also for small business.
Minister, I'm going to move a motion while you're here. Hopefully the committee will support this motion:
||That the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities dedicate one additional meeting during the study of experiential leaning for younger Canadians, on job opportunities in home care, geriatrics, and palliative care.
I'm moving that motion.
I hope the committee can deal with this quickly, hopefully within this meeting, and not move into an in camera meeting, because the minister's mandate is for openness and transparency. If there's a motion to adjourn debate or move in camera, then it's not the open, transparent responsibility of the minister.
I will respond to the former member's comment.
First of all, I understand that you just concluded a seniors study. Hopefully some of the answers to your questions are in the seniors study.
Second, I think it was a little bit ironic to hear the member talk about the efforts that his previous Conservative government made to increase women in the trades when he also concurrently talked about my role as Minister of Employment being a raise, essentially a promotion, from Minister of Status of Women Canada. In fact, it's incredibly sexist that the member would mention this as a promotion, because in fact gender equality requires a full-time gig. If you are going to make any efforts in terms of moving forward on gender equality, you have to understand that. The Minister of Status of Women isn't a junior role. It isn't a role that you play to pretend that you're focused on gender equality, which is what I suspect happened for the last 10 years, which is why we don't see women in skilled trades and we don't see women in non-traditional sectors, because we did not see a government that focused on the true equality of women. I can tell you that for all of the member's comments about their efforts in the trades, we have 110,000 unfilled skilled trades positions in this country. It's a crying shame. We can't build the things we want to build or fix the things we want to fix or build the new technology that we want build with Canadian workers because we can't find those people.
I'm sorry that I took up some time from your answer to respond to the previous member, but in fact I think it's very important that this be on the record. Our government is the first government truly focused on gender equality, and the Minister of Status of Women, as a full minister, has an incredibly important role—
Chair, if there were a study on seniors and all the issues related to seniors, including accessibility, then I think this would be very worthwhile travel, but what we've heard from Mr. is that this has already been done in the last Parliament. That's what Canadians object to: it appears like there are junkets. We already spent money on travel in the last Parliament, and what information was gleaned in that last Parliament?
Instead of keeping on studying and studying and studying, do something. That's what Canadians expect.
I will reflect on the report from the commissioner of the environment. The commissioner said, referring to the Liberal government at the time:
||...bold announcements are made and then often forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground. The federal government seems to have trouble crossing the finish line.
It's time to do something, not to make more bold announcements with more confetti in the air. If we already have this information and if we've already travelled, then let's do something. If there is going to be a study on seniors dealing with home care and along with that on how we can get our youth jobs in that field, then I think I would support it, but just with a very narrow focus.
I believe the government has an announcement they want to make, so they want us to travel, and then there is going to be an announcement about how they've listened, so here are some funds that everybody is going to get. They're going to make this announcement that in 2021 to 2050, they're going to provide billions of dollars.
Let's be real. Let's do it now. Let's do it in this Parliament. Let's not keep moving the goalposts. If we've already done the travel, let's find out what we learned in that travel instead of wasting more money.