Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers

Click the photo to see our Flickr album of the Escalator launch event

Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers brings together private, public and community sector leaders to tackle the issue of unemployment for youth facing barriers. 9.5% of Ontario youth are not in employment, education or training. Research suggests that the cumulative lifetime burden to society of youth who are most disconnected from the labour market is $1 million per youth. At the same time, many industries face labour shortages, low retention rates and high recruitment costs. The costs to business and society are significant.


Over the last two years (see our Timeline), we successfully launched a number of programs which are making a difference in the lives of young people across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton region, with the potential to inform initiatives across the province.

  • netWORKS: Hundreds of youth and young professionals are connecting through netWORKS, a career-oriented networking and mentoring program launched with the United Way of Toronto and York Region and
  • YouthConnect: 200 youth workers from 90 organizations with the capacity to reach 3,000 youth have been trained on 21st century job-search skills through YouthConnect, our partnership with LinkedIn.
  • NPower Canada: 70 students have graduated from NPower Canada, which trains young people facing barriers and matches them with paid internships in the technology sector. Over 80% of graduates have secured full-time employment or are pursuing post-secondary education within a year of graduating.

We are proud of our accomplishments to date but know that there is more work to be done to level the playing field for youth facing barriers.


In 2016, CivicAction embarked on a new phase of work, developing evidence-based tools to help HR leaders identify and address barriers within their organizations that may hinder the success of young people. Working with a variety of employers from targeted sectors and from across Ontario, we will support and document a process of change which can be shared with employers across the province to inspire further action. To do so, we’ve convened a world-class group of Special Advisors to inform our efforts with best practices in the field of diversity and inclusion. Working with employers, we will:

  • Develop a self-assessment tool that employers can use to identify barriers within their workplaces that inhibit the successful recruitment, hiring, retention and development of young people.
  • Work with case study companies to conduct the self-assessment, identify a particular barrier to be addressed, support a change management process, and test the effectiveness of the intervention. CivicAction has identified high-potential sectors facing labour shortages, low retention rates, and high recruitment costs.
  • Convene sector-based peer roundtables with our case study companies to share lessons learned and inspire further action.
  • Document best practices in an employer toolkit which other firms can use to undertake similar efforts to enhance the success of young people facing barriers.

For more information on the history of this initiative, please see our Escalator Timeline.


Escalator has benefited from the tremendous leadership of a number of partners from across all sectors.

Thanks to our generous supporters!