Finding that first job has always been a struggle and according to London youth today, it has become increasingly difficult to overcome.
Jen Carter is a recent Western graduate and president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), a group that represents the interests of undergrad students at seven student associations across the province.
Carter said three in four students found summer employment in 2013, yet with rising expenses, the issue is still a pressing one.
“With the high cost of tuition and living, it is becoming more difficult for students to be able to financially support their pursuits of personal statements of experience,” she said.
Carter said finding employment in a specific field of study is “extremely difficult, especially at an entry level position.”
According to an OUSA report released in June, over 70 percent of Western students who were employed, had jobs in areas unrelated to their degree.
Carter said she knew of many Western students who went home for the summer due to the lack of jobs here in London.
London is home to various services dedicated to helping youth obtain employment, one of which is Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), an organization that provides youth with job training and skills development services.
Steve Cordes, the executive director of YOU, said the organization has placed about 600 London youth in jobs, through placements, help from workshops or one of their own social enterprises.
“We try to get them to focus in on their study area or ultimately career goal and if not, then more generally what do they like to do.
“As much as people say they’ll do anything if it’s not something they’re interested in, it’s easy to lose motivation and they won’t give it their all.”
Cordes said he finds most students are coming to YOU with no previous job experience while 30 years ago, students who had worked part-time jobs during high school was more common.
“There’s far less understanding of the job market,” he said. “Helping people develop those soft skills like teamwork, work ethic, showing up on time, they are more important than what its been in the past.”
One of the ways they teach these skills, Cordes explained, is through their social enterprises in the city, a retail kiosk at the market, a recycling program, a woodshop and the You Made it Cafe, located on the corner of Richmond and York.
The cafe, which was launched two years ago, hires students for up to 13 weeks, allowing them to gain -experience in a work environment to help their chances of finding -permanent employment in the community.
Maddie Hatcher has worked two 13-week contracts and is now a youth leader at the cafe.
She has participated in YOU workshops and programs for seven years.
Working at the cafe is Hatcher’s first paid job and now with her experience in the food industry and skills gained from YOU workshops, she hopes to have her own restaurant one day.
It’s a dream that wouldn’t have been possible without her work at the cafe.
“If you don’t have someone to take a chance on you and give you the opportunity to show them what you can do, how are you supposed to get experience? That’s why this is a huge help,” she said.
Although Hatcher said finding a job is definitely tough for youth in London, the main advice that helped her succeed is simple.
“Never give up looking and you’ll find one somewhere,” she said. “And when someone is willing to give you that opportunity, take advantage of it and absorb and take in everything.”