'Back on track': Boost in funds for literacy program to help young northerners enter job market

·2 min read
A photo of the Ilitaqsiniq team, including Adriana Kusugak, the executive director, seated on left. (Submitted by Adriana Kusugak - image credit)
A photo of the Ilitaqsiniq team, including Adriana Kusugak, the executive director, seated on left. (Submitted by Adriana Kusugak - image credit)

The Nunavut Literacy Council and its northern counterparts have received over $1.6 million for youth development in the territories.

The funding is part of the federal government's Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) and will help 72 youth across Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon who are looking to enter the workforce with skills and confidence building.

Adriana Kusugak, the executive director of Ilitaqsiniq (Nunavut Literacy Council), said the pan-territorial program will be run in collaboration with the NWT Literacy Council and the Yukon Literacy Coalition.

There will be two cohorts for the program over two years, each around three and half months in length.

"It will be very much an Ilitaqsiniq-style programming in which we embed literacy, language and essential skills development into culture based learning because we know that's what works," Kusugak said.

The new programming is especially important in light of the setbacks experienced by youth due to COVID-19, Kusugak said.

Submitted by Adriana Kusugak
Submitted by Adriana Kusugak

It's why work experience is a part of the program, with Ilitaqsiniq connecting youth to local employment opportunities and helping them network with other members of the community.

Carla Qualtrough, the employment minister, said Canadians graduating from high school or entering the job market now are at risk of long-term damage to their job prospects because of the pandemic, the CBC reported in May.

A 'confidence booster'

At 16.1 per cent in April, the youth unemployment rate in Canada was double the overall national rate, according to Statistics Canada data.

That's down from the 20.1 per cent rate for all of 2020 but still far higher than rates for any other full year of the past decade.

For Indigenous youth between the ages of 15 and 29, Employment and Social Development Canada also reported the participation rate in the labour market reached a low-point in May 2021 at 21.6 per cent, compared to 48.6 in September 2020.

"I'm sure a lot of youth feel like their life has been stalled in some ways so this is our opportunity to help it get back on track," Kusugak said.

"We find that our programs are very meaningful and engaging and just give them that confidence booster that they need to take the next step and engage in the next stage of their life."

The communities where the programs will be run are still being finalized. Applications for youth interested in the program will begin later this year.

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