Reducing employment barriers requires more mentorship opportunities
March 01, 2021
By: Kelly Xu
Growing up in a first-generation family, my parents barely understood English and worked numerous minimum wage jobs. I never bothered asking for help from my parents to guide me in finding a job. I couldn’t ask my parents how to network, write professional resumes, or adequately do a “tell me about yourself’ at an interview. They simply could not help me.
My anecdote is just one of many that represent our country’s youth population. Canadian youth are a diverse group of people experiencing many different changes and barriers. The high youth unemployment rate is linked to many challenging and nuanced problems. To combat this, one of the most definitive strategies to support youth to help employment is mentorship. Specifically, Developmental Mentoring and Instrumental Mentoring.
In general, mentors guide young people through encouragement and support their personal and professional goals through skills development. In a recent study of work-based mentoring programs, mentored youth reported increased self-esteem—a reflection of a youth’s perceived competency and potential for subsequent career success.
In addition to their emotional health, mentors also assist in developing job readiness through assistance with resumes, cover letters, and interview help. They also promote healthy cognitive and emotional development through interpersonal relationships. Service providers reported that having a knowledgeable mentor who can establish a relationship of trust with a young person through frequent contact over the long term is key to success.
I can speak on behalf of my personal mentorship experience. The most definitive moment for me was when I participated in a mentorship program called G.E.M (Girls E-Mentorship). Their mandate was to introduce girls with mentors to guide personal development and assist in drafting resumes to help with my personal and professional success. From my mentorship, I gained the technical skills of resume writing and soft communication skills. I was later able to find a job as a youth program developer for summer camp during the pandemic to help youth smoothly transition into high school.
Mentorship has a significant influence and the numbers support this: a recent meta-analysis of 73 independent evaluations of mentoring programs showed that mentoring improves a young person’s behavioural, social, emotional, and academic outcomes.
Support for youth in middle and high school can be a transformative experience, as was for me when I became involved with G.E.M.
Recognizing the importance of mentorship is needed as a first step to improve the equity of the job searching process for youth facing barriers. This is a call to action for the Government of Canada and other relevant groups to step in and create more meaningful mentorship opportunities for those who need it most.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
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