Westman vulnerable youth get help to move from education to employment

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(l-r) Terry Burgess, RBC Regional Vice-President, Western Manitoba; Peggy Hornell, Chief Operating Officer, The Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada; Glenn Crook, RBC Vice President, Commercial Financial Services; Tristan Norton, CFS Western’s Youth Care Employment Specialist; Marie Wotton, Supervisor, CFS Western Family and Community Development Centre; Dave McGregor, CFS Western, Chief Executive Officer

Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba (CFS Western) is excited to announce a two-year pilot project partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and RBC that will give 100 vulnerable youth in Westman extra support in accessing the workforce.

Called Youth Works, the project will help youth in and from care, aged 16 to 29, with employability supports such as skills training, career mentorships, and job placements. The program is supported by RBC Future Launch in partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

The official launch of the program took place Tuesday, January 30, at CFS Western’s Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre. About 50 people attended including CFS staff and youth in and from care; Glenn Crook, RBC Vice President, Commercial Financial Services; other RBC staff; Peggy Hornell, Chief Operating Officer, The Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada; and Tristan Norton, CFS Western’s Youth Care Employment Specialist.

“For youth moving into adulthood and out of care, gaining employment is often a significant challenge,” said Dave McGregor, Chief Executive Officer of CFS Western.

“Living apart from their family, dealing with needs and vulnerabilities that contributed to their coming into care, and experiencing a lack of support to access opportunities that most kids take for granted, are just a few of the extra barriers these young adults face.

“The Youth Works program will help mitigate some of these added obstacles.”

James Lavallée, RBC Olympian and Canoe/Kayak athlete, had planned to attend the launch but, due to a highway closure, was unable to make it at the last minute. He made himself available via speakerphone though and told the youth about his struggles growing up with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD.

“I felt angry, lost, and like I had no direction,” said Lavallée.

“School was frustrating so I turned to sports to distract me, and I still struggled – a lot – at every one I tried.

“Finally I figured out that the one thing that made me feel good was being outside.

“So I found kayaking, and from my first time out on the water, I felt different…and free.

“It changed my life forever, gave me an outlet for my frustration and anger, and taught me skills that I could apply to everything I do.”

James Lavallee (click to enlarge)

Lavallée also told the youth that he opened himself up to the support of others who helped him set and pursue his life goals.

“Though we often think – and believe – it, we never truly walk alone.

“Welcome others into your circle, gain support and strength from them, and take it one step at time.

“There will always be bends and bumps along the way, but take pride in how you navigate them.

“For me, they helped make me who I am today.”

Tristan Norton, CFS Western’s Youth Care Employment Specialist, told the audience that a goal of the Youth Works program is to help youth in and from care reach their full potential by giving them the tools they need to succeed in the workplace.

“Not only just to find jobs,” said Norton.

“But to keep them and become great role models in their workplaces which will help them unlock their full potential in all that they do.”

The Youth Works program is also operating in three other sites across Canada – Fredericton, Richmond, and Toronto. Each of the fours site have received funding to help 100 vulnerable youth in their area.

Peggy Hornell, Chief Operating Officer at The Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, said that while each site and province has their own unique character, across the country youth in and from care face multiple barriers as they move out of care and into independence.

“Helping young people in and from the child welfare system find stability in their lives is an important priority for us at the Foundation.

“This program will help build brighter futures for these kids by giving them the supports they need to launch successful careers.”

On average each year, about 2,300 youth as young as age 16 move out of Canada’s child welfare system and are no longer eligible for the kind of supports they received in care. They often lack a family home or family support while they look for a job, help with groceries and necessities, or someone to help them prepare for a job interview. Without the basic supports to help them become self-sufficient, these young adults may face a future of poverty, homelessness, and hopelessness.

“Our goal is to ensure these youth are more confident, better prepared and equipped for the future of work,” said Glenn Crook, RBC Vice President, Commercial Financial Services.

Youth Works provides a unique opportunity for us to support some of the most vulnerable youth in Westman, and we thank our partners for their work in making a measurable difference in the lives of youth transitioning from care.”

The Westman Youth Works program began in September 2017. To date, about 25 youth are participating. Youth can access the program on their own, or get referral through a child welfare agency or high school as well as many other community organizations. For more information, please call Tristan Norton at 204-573-3252 or toll free 1-800-483-8980 or email youthemployment@cfswestern.mb.ca.