Thank you very much.
I'd like to thank the committee for inviting Employment and Social Development Canada to appear before you today on the topic of youth employment.
I'd also like to introduce my colleagues around the table, but we have too many of them, so I won't. They're here to help me if you have questions regarding programs that support youth participation in the labour market.
As the committee is aware, the government announced in Budget 2014 its intention to better align employment programs with the realities of the labour market, and in that context, the committee's study is timely and welcome.
Over the coming decade, approximately 6.2 million people will enter the labour market, three-quarters of whom will come from the school system. Young labour market entrants will therefore contribute the most to labour force growth, well above the contribution of new immigrants.
We also know that over the next 10 years the shift in employment towards occupations requiring higher levels of skills and education will continue, as approximately two-thirds of new jobs will require some form of post-secondary education. A large proportion of these will be in health, engineering, and technology occupations, as well as in certain skilled trades.
The recent recession highlighted the importance of skills and education for youth, as those with higher education levels fared better, while those with lower levels of education were most severely affected.
Canadian youth are investing in their education, and educational attainment is among the highest in the world and growing. At the same time, there is some evidence that qualifications are not optimally aligned with demand. In particular, employers express concerns that too few students are choosing in-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math, and many do not consider skilled trades as a first career choice.
Given growing skills requirements of jobs and pressures of an aging labour force, it is essential that youth have the right skills to make successful transitions in the labour market and to improve their ability to adjust when economic circumstances change.
Addressing skills challenges facing youth has been a long-standing objective of the Government of Canada's policies and programs. Recent efforts, however, have focused on ensuring interventions are better aligned with the needs of employers and the labour market.
More specifically, that has meant enhancing opportunities for Canadian youth to access post-secondary education and supporting careers in the skilled trades; assisting youth transition to the world of work by providing tangible work opportunities in areas of high demand; and ensuring youth have the information they need to make informed career and training choices aligned with the needs of the labour market.
Allow me to highlight some of the Employment and Social Development Canada key initiatives dedicated to supporting these objectives.
The government supports access to education through a number of programs and initiatives. These include, for example, the Canada student loans program. This provides student financial assistance to post-secondary students with demonstrated financial need, through the provision of loans and grants. The education savings program encourages families to save for their children's post-secondary education, using registered education savings plans, RESPs, which allow savings to grow tax free. The Canada education savings grant and the Canada learning bond provide additional incentives, particularly for low- and middle-income families, to save in RESPs.
The government also provides support to Pathways to Education Canada, an organization with an established record of reducing high school dropout rates and increasing post-secondary enrolment among disadvantaged youth. Budget 2013 confirmed that the government will extend support for this initiative.
Apprenticeship training is also an important part of the post-secondary education system.
To further encourage Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades, Budget 2014 proposed the creation of the Canada apprentice loan by expanding the Canada student loans program. The objective is to provide apprentices registered in red seal trades with access to an estimated $100 million in interest-free loans each year.
This action builds on the existing government incentives for apprentices and employers to encourage apprenticeship training and stimulate employment in the skilled trades.
The apprenticeship grants are designed to encourage more Canadians to pursue and complete apprenticeship programs in the red seal trades.
To support youth transitions in the labour market, the youth employment strategy is the government's flagship program to help youth aged 15 to 30 gain skills and real work experience to transition in the labour market. This program, which invests approximately $330 million annually, is led by Employment and Social Development Canada and delivered by 11 federal departments and agencies.
It has three main streams. Skills Link provides funding for employers and organizations to help youth facing barriers to employment acquire skills and work experience. Summer Work Experience provides wage subsidies to employers to create summer employment for secondary and post-secondary students. This program includes Canada Summer Jobs, which provides funding for not-for-profit organizations as well as public sector and private sector employers to create summer job opportunities for students. All told, approximately 35,000 summer jobs were created in 2013. Finally, Career Focus provides youth with work experience in their field of study to enable more informed career decisions and to develop their skills.
Moving forward, the government is committed to enhancing its supports for the labour market transition of youth. In particular, through budget 2013, the government provided an additional $70 million over three years for the Career Focus stream of the youth employment strategy to support internships for recent graduates, so they get an opportunity to apply their newly acquired skills.
Through budget 2014, the government announced that it would take further steps to align youth employment programs with the evolving realities of the job market, more specifically to promote internships in high-demand fields such as skilled trades, and in science, technology, engineering, and math, so that youth can find work experience and the skills necessary to find and retain jobs.
The Government of Canada also provides support for unemployed and underemployed youth through income support from the employment insurance program and through significant transfers to the provinces and territories. More specifically, the government transfers $1.95 billion annually through the labour market development agreements to support the unemployed who are eligible for employment insurance. Similarly, the government provides $500 million annually through the labour market agreements for training and unemployment supports for those not eligible for EI. Youth represent about 20% and 35% of the clients receiving support under each of these transfers respectively.
Finally, the labour market agreements for persons with disabilities allow provinces to provide targeted programming to improve the employability of persons with disabilities, including youth.
The new Canada job grant to be introduced by July 1, 2014, aims to directly connect skills training with employers, helping to ensure that Canadians, including youth, are developing the skills for available jobs.
Finally, the government plays an important role in providing learning and labour market information to ensure youth have timely and reliable information to make the right choices about learning and work.
For example, through the Working in Canada website and CanLearn.ca the government provides information on available jobs, labour market outcomes, and educational and training requirements.
In Budget 2013, the government reaffirmed its commitment to improving these tools and announced a reallocation of $19 million over 2 years to provide young Canadians with more information on job prospects and to undertake outreach efforts to promote careers in high-demand fields.
Through its funding of the Red Seal program, the government supports promotional activities to inform industry and tradespeople, as well as high school students and the public at large, about apprenticeships and the benefits of working in the skilled trades. The government also provides significant support to Skills Canada to actively promote careers in the skilled trades to Canadian youth by working with local organizations, educators, and governments.
In conclusion, I would again like to thank the committee for undertaking this timely study. We look forward to seeing its recommendations.
My colleagues and I welcome the opportunity to respond to any questions you may have.