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: Over 310 youth and 170 mentors have been engaged in netWORKS, a career-oriented networking and mentoring program, led by United Way of Toronto & York Region.
  • YouthConnect: Nearly 500 youth workers with the capacity to reach 6,000 youth, as well as 90 youth and almost 50 employers have been trained on 21st century job-search skills, with LinkedIn.
  • NPower Canada: Almost 120 students have graduated (50% women) from NPower, which trains young people facing barriers and matches them with paid internships in the technology sector. 80% of graduates enter full-time employment or pursue 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. Consultations to develop this tool are taking place in London, Ottawa, Toronto and Northern Ontario. Learn more here.
  • 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!