News & Events


British Columbia Interim NEET Youth Report

July 27, 2020

In BC in 2018, about 27,600 youth were Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) and seeking work. The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training Sector Labour Market Partnership program has commissioned this interim report as one of four deliverables to engage youth, youth employment services and employers of youth to inform Opportunity For All Youth on how to achieve its NEET hiring objectives in BC. The interim report helps to develop a shared understanding of key opportunities and challenges, and to test promising approaches with potential employer partners, community partners and stakeholders.

Although some findings of this report have changed drastically since COVID-19, particularity data around the labour market forecast, the attributes of NEET youth and the barriers they face are still relevant topics in this report.

Below are some highlights of these topics:

Hiring concept prototyping at O4AY BC engagement Discovery and Design workshop


  • The NEET Youth issue in BC is differs from other provinces in that it is experiencing persistent labour shortages in high-growth regions.
  • BC NEET are more likely to be older (25-29 years-old) compared to other youth.
  • In BC, NEET (37.8%) are more likely to have graduated from high school than all youth (24.1%). NEET are less likely to have completed or had some postsecondary education than all youth (43.9% vs 53.6%).
  • NEET youth in BC are more likely to have graduated from high school compared to all youth but are less likely to have completed or had some postsecondary education.
  • NEET are much more likely to be married compared to all youth. NEET are also three times more likely to have a child younger than 6 years. (While the non-response rate on the child question is very high and may not be reliable, this trend of NEET more likely to have young children is consistent with Statistics Canada findings (Statistics Canada (October 10, 2018).
  • More than three-quarters of NEET (76.9%) have worked in the past. Only 23.1% have never worked.
  • The largest proportion of NEET indicated that they were re-entrants, having worked 1 year ago or less.
  • Next largest group of NEET were permanently laid off.
  • Only 8.0% of NEET responded as new entrants and 16.2% NEET as job leavers. This contradicts a common assumption that NEET lack work experience.
  • The largest proportion of NEET who responded indicated that lay offs were the reason for leaving their job.
  • Majority of NEET ndicated they wanted a full-time job. Only 15.9% of NEET wanted part-time jobs. In contrast 39.0% of all youth wanted part-time jobs, likely because they are in school.



From our interviews with NEET youth and youth employees who were previously NEET, eight themes emerged from our engagement with youth (interview guide can be found in appendix of report linked below).

  1. Youth are selective:
  • Youth are focused on finding a job in their field with a decent pay and will not take a job that doesn’t contribute to that goal.
  • Youth care about the values of the company they work for.
  1. Youth are more focused on education than jobs:
  • Parents of NEET youth are focused on education and don’t want any jobs to get in the way of getting good grades.
  • Students stay in school longer to avoid the ‘real world’.
  • Debt and/or borrowing money from parents make it difficult to take a job that isn’t directly in the field that they are pursuing. They are embarrassed to take a job that is unrelated.
  1. On-the-job learning is very important for getting a job:
  • Soft skills / people skills are primarily learned on-the-job, but it’s a “catch 22” of how to get your first job without having that initial job experience.
  • Coop placements (paid or unpaid) are competitive but provide work experience to students.
  1. Social capital is critical in getting your first job:
  • Youth tend to get their first job through family connections.
  • Youth tend to find future jobs through connections via peers.
  • It’s ‘who you know’ that will determine your likeliness of getting a job. This is not communicated enough to youth via school or employment programs.
  1. Lack of preparation opportunities for interviews:
  • Group interviews can be extremely stressful especially for introverted people. It takes practice to develop these skills and it is hard to find opportunities to practice.
  1. Job searching is a rollercoaster, and managing emotions is key:
  • After going through a long multi-stage interview process and ultimately being denied the
  • job, can cause a strong sense of shame and failure. This is demotivating to get back on the
  • job hunt.
  • Interviewers often do not give feedback or call back to let them know.
  1. Minimum wage jobs do not provide youth an independent lifestyle in Vancouver:
  • Many NEET are still living with family. Obtaining a minimum wage job will not enable them to move out on their own, due to the high cost of living here in the lower mainland of Vancouver.
  1. Paid employment training programs don’t necessarily lead to jobs:
  • Youth put 5+ months into a paid employment training program which gave them a false sense of security. After completing training and job placement successfully, the agency did not have any jobs in that field. The job-seeker went back to square one.

Common youth employment supports in BC


  1. In 2012, the contracts were consolidated and awarded to a fewer number of organizations who were to create one-size-fits-all centres. This had a significant impact with the youth population because they don’t want to enter a stark government-looking building.


  1. Public employment agencies struggle to recruit youth:
  • The majority of the separate agencies we talked to mentioned that they have trouble finding youth to participate. They don’t know if it’s because there are less youth in desperately need of a job, or if they can’t reach them (via marketing channels).
  • A major community agency has approximately 300 distinct youth job seekers accessing their services per year.
  • Another similar have approximately 250 youth job seekers accessing their programs per year.
  • A community leader said they are worried that too many youth employment programs might dilute the pool of youth who attend their programs. He is concerned about the quality of new youth employment programs that enter the market.
  • All agencies stated the youth who attend have persistent multiple barriers. The youth generally need support first for mental health and stable housing, before providing pre-employment support.


  1. Employment service providers must fight employer stereotypes of ‘youth facing barriers’:
  • ‘Youth facing barriers’ are a subset of NEET. Some of these youth can be ready for work with some support, while others may require more help over longer periods.
  • Job developers are constantly working with employers to let go of stereotypical ‘youth who faces barriers to employment’. The employer’s attitude is that they are waiting for when (not if) the youth will show up late, be rude to a customer, or steal. This attitude doesn’t create a strong bond between the youth and the employer.
  • When a job developer explains that the employer may be eligible for a wage subsidy, the employer is less likely to hire that youth because the employer believes that the government needs to pay them to make it worth their while. There is a prejudice around receiving money to take on a ‘charity’ case, when that is not the case. The subsidies were incentives for employers to hire more people through WorkBC centres, but seems to be backfiring.
  • Lack of soft skills and relevant experience are the top barriers
  • Employment service providers and youth serving organizations were asked to rank five barriers with regard to influencing the success of finding a job for a NEET, with 5 being the most important.

4. Access to transportation is a barrier, especially for shift work:

  • Transportation is a major issue for the construction, foodservice and hospitality industries when workers need to come in early (before 6am) or stay late (after midnight).
  • Without a supportive family (for housing and transportation help) it can be hard to keep a job.


5. Employer expectations need to be actively managed:

  • Managers want to have the ‘cream of the crop’ for employees and are not willing to adjust their expectations.
  • Employers are motivated to hire as they need to fill their positions. But there is a strong disconnect between what they’re looking for and what is available to them. They don’t want to provide extra time and attention for new hires as they lack training and capacity.


6. What works: clear job descriptions, paired placements, rotational placements, mentoring

  • Having a clear job description (in accessible language) is helpful to attract youth.
  • Employment service providers have seen success when employers rotate youth through different positions so that they get a taste of different parts of the company. The rotation helps them understand the whole process. It also leads to better communication between departments.
  • Having a work-mentor (separate from your supervisor/boss) is helpful to support youth at work.


7. What doesn’t work: Unsupportive managers and unclear expectations

  • Managers who don’t have capacity and training to support youth.
  • Lack of communication with staff around company expectations and professionalism. For example, youth have never been told how to take a sick day. They might just not show up for a shift and explain later that they were sick. They don’t know to call ahead of time.


To see the full report, click here.

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