Project Fusion seeks to help youth who are less educated or have other barriers to employability.  Some of the project's staff are, (left to right) Dennis Gonzales, Simon Tesfay, Antoinette Sarpong, Evelyn Shaller-Auslander, Donna Lindell, Nick Cahill, and Mary-Ellen Rayner.

College initiative aims to get ‘youth with barriers’ hired

Trying to put human face on problem usually presented as statistics

Toronto is a tough job market to break into, even for the best and brightest educated youth. So imagine being one without an education — or worse.

That’s why a campaign by Centennial College’s Project Fusion aims to raise awareness to help “youth with barriers” find gainful employment.

“All we want is for employers to get involved with the discussion,” said Mary-Ellen Rayner, one of the co-chairs of Project Fusion’s Ready, Aim, Hire campaign. “Any kind of discourse about the issue will draw the right kind of attention.”

Co-chair Nick Cahill said media are focusing more on internships and young people with degrees who can’t find employment, and less on people with barriers.

“Maybe they didn’t finish high school. Maybe they’re new Canadians,” he said. “We want to raise awareness about people like that. They’re not university educated, they want to aspire to post-secondary education or even just first employment,”

Project Fusion is working with guidance from the GTA Civic Action Alliance. Not pleased with the way the youth unemployment problem is displayed in the media as a set of statistics, the campaign’s goal is to bring a human element to youth unemployment.

“We want human stories from real people, and we want employers to see that and respond to that,” Rayner said.

The group plans to show that through their website to be launched soon.

“When you’ve got faces to it, and you can point to success stories,” said Donna Lindell, faculty coordinator of Project Fusion. “They need to see that those people are out there,” Lindell said.

But why should employers hire these youth? The Ready, Aim, Hire campaign aims to tell employers about their success stories.

“It’s just good business,” Lindell said. “They’re potential tax payers.”

While the campaign aims to raise awareness, the real change has to come from within employers and government, the group suggests.

“Changes that employers need to make have to happen on a structural level,” Rayner said. “Things like internships need to be integrated in a more broad way. We need to make changes to our hiring practices.”

It remains to be seen if the campaign will yield the same successful results as Project Fusion’s previous campaign, “The Big Race,” which piggy backed off of Civic Action’s Your32 campaign, and raised awareness about long commute times in Toronto.