Originally planned last November but derailed by the pandemic, the city of Toronto’s expanded youth spaces and programs opened on Monday, giving young people twice as many places to play, study and find work.
The additional 20 spaces bring the total number of youth spaces run by the City and Toronto Public Library (TPL) to 43, with 66 full-time staff working to equip youth with the skills to succeed in a marketplace. early-stage labor shaken hard by COVID-19.
Young people have borne a heavy burden from the pandemic, often taking on the types of accommodation and food services jobs that disappeared almost immediately when public health restrictions were first introduced and were slow to take off. come back since then.
Those who are still in school have had over a year of their education delivered mainly through a computer screen.
“Without previous experience and without an established network, young people find it difficult to start their careers,” said Akosua Alagaratnam, executive director of First Work, a youth employment network.
She said young people need specific programming and the city’s initiative “will help ensure our young people are not left behind during the recovery from a pandemic.”
Several of the enhanced spaces were designed to engage specific youth populations known to have poorer economic and health outcomes overall, including Indigenous youth and 2SLGBTQ + youth.
Although the gap has narrowed somewhat in recent months, the unemployment rate is still higher among visible minority youth than among their white counterparts, at 17.8% compared to 12.2% in Canada. nationwide.
Overall, the labor market in Canada is still almost 2% below pre-pandemic levels, and the employment gap is larger once population growth is taken into account, Statistics Canada said. earlier this month.
Mayor John Tory said access to recreation programs and support services has helped “to develop young people, their families and their neighborhoods.”
“By expanding the program and increasing the offerings, we can ensure that we are helping as many young people in our city get the services and support they need for a healthy base,” he said during an event held at Native Child and Family Services in Scarborough, one of the city’s partners in the expansion.
Other groups working with the city include the Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough and The 519.
City council last year approved nearly $ 1.9 million for the 10 new improved youth spaces, double the number of supervised spaces managed by the city. These sites are open five to seven days a week and offer computers and Internet connections, video games, pool tables, and even recording studios and photography labs.
The city’s TPL budget that year was $ 3.2 million, including funding for 10 new spaces in the city’s public libraries where staff run occasional youth-focused programs. There are now 23 such sites.
Hub gaming gear, digital cameras, robotics, VR headsets, and DJ gear are not yet available. The spaces were only able to open (at reduced capacity) after the province moved to Step 3 of its plan to reopen following a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
The city said it hired 11 people in its recreation division as part of the expansion. He did not specify the number of new hires made by TPL.
The city said it worked with a youth advisory committee made up of youth, service organizations, school boards and municipal staff to select sites to fill gaps in youth services and provide more. helping people who are victims of violence, poverty and marginalization.