Youth unemployment must be reduced

MP Report, By Scott Armstrong

Published on March 31, 2014

Lessons learned in Germany being applied in Canada

The Conservative government’s number one priority remains job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. We’re committed to helping Canadians, including young Canadians, obtain the skills required to obtain and keep the in-demand jobs available today and into the future. 

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, one of my major responsibilities is to work with Canadian stakeholders to lower our youth unemployment rate.

It’s important to put the youth unemployment rate in Canada into context. Canada is fairing much better than France (23.8 per cent), Ireland (26.8 per cent), the United Kingdom (21 per cent) and the United States (15.55 per cent). That said, there’s more that can and must be done to ensure our young people have the skills employers are looking for.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that under our government, even through the global recession, the average youth unemployment rate has been 13.2 per cent. This is a full point lower than under the 13-year tenure of the previous Liberal government.

Nevertheless, the youth unemployment rate in this country is too high and we believe we must do better. This month Minister Kenney and I travelled to Germany where the youth unemployment rate is an impressive seven per cent. One key lesson we learned was the importance of the “parity of esteem” in terms of the value Germans have for the trades and trade certification. In Germany, youth are encouraged to enter into high-demand fields, such as the skilled trades, at an early age and both academic university-type education and more practical skilled trades-type education are equally valued.

It’s unacceptable that we have so many young people who can’t find work while many employers are struggling to fill available positions. There are several reasons for this. For example, Canada’s post-secondary education system isn’t well aligned with our country’s labour market needs. A key example of this is the fact the proportion of students entering the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields is decreasing at the same time when the number of available jobs related to these fields is growing rapidly.

Later this year, our government will be launching a new tool to provide youth and those who influence their education and career decisions (parents, teachers, guidance counsellors, etc.) with better and more timely information on what jobs are in-demand today and into the future, and what education and skills are required to obtain those jobs.

We’re investing in paid internships so young Canadians get valuable work experience and connections to the labour market. Budget 2014 announced a major investment for the creation of 3,000 paid youth internships in high-demand fields, including STEM, as well as funding to create 1,000 internships for youth in small businesses. In addition, the federal Youth Employment Strategy has funded employment training and work experiences for more than half a million youth since 2006.

Our government is also providing unprecedented support for apprentices across the country. In 2006 we introduced the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, and in 2009 the Apprenticeship Completion Grant, which — when combined — provide up to $4,000 to apprentices in a designated Red Seal trade.

In 2006, we also created a tax credit for employers who hire apprentices, and we created a tax credit for apprentices and tradesmen to help cover the cost of tools.

In Budget 2014, our government announced the creation of the new Canada Apprentice Loans, which will provide apprentices in a designated Red Seal trade with access to up to $4,000 in interest-free loans to help with the costs of completing their training.

The reality is, that it’s only by working with provincial governments, employers, those who represent workers and training and education institutions that this problem can be more effectively addressed. In my new role as Parliamentary Secretary I will be criss-crossing the country to meet with stakeholders regarding these important labour market issues. 

Another key factor we learned in Germany is that employers need to be more involved and invest more in hiring and training young Canadians. In Germany literally hundreds of thousands of young people are being recruited into training programs where the employers are providing funds for training. In Canada we have the lowest amount of employer investment in training in the G7. This has to change if we are to tackle the skills gap. To that end, our government is working to implement the Canada Job Grant to ensure skills training actually leads to a guaranteed job and that employers are investing more in job training.

Our government continues to take action to grow Canada’s economy to ensure there are an increasing number of jobs available for Canadians. Since the depths of the global recession, more than one million net new jobs have been created. We will continue to take extensive action to help youth receive training and work experience to ensure young Canadians are benefitting from the jobs being created.

As always, if you have questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact my office toll-free at 1-888-752-0552; visit my Website at; add me as a friend on Facebook; or follow me on Twitter @Armstrong MP.

Scott Armstrong is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development, as well as the Conservative MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.