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Put your money where your mouth is

Posted on February 23, 2017 by Vauxhall Advance

A hand up, not a hand out.

Google that saying and you will see many an article pop up. From being the catch phrase for the Salvation Army, to programs like Habitat for Humanity, to the pounding of the pulpit by many a politician and celebrity, no one can deny that should be the end goal of any social safety net a caring nation provides. But often, the saying is just mouth service where politicians do the exact opposite.

That is why the bad news the Youth Employment Services in Taber heard last week is so troubling, as its Youth Employment Program will have its funding end at the conclusion of its latest intake.

Under the umbrella of Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association (TDCALA) with funding from Service Canada, a three-year funding agreement had been applied for but was denied, in essence only allowing the program a one-year existence.

The program targeted people from 15 to 30 years old who have had some challenges in their lives be it a single parent, individuals who did not finish high school or who are facing other barriers to employment such as residing in a remote location, physical or ethnic minority, or recent immigrant youth. Other barriers may include inadequate skill sets, lack of social supports from family, friends and community, lack of previous work experience, poor self and/or behaviour management abilities, or physical/mental/emotional social challenges.

Each intake is 17 weeks in length featuring classroom and work experience. Instruction involves motivation and mentorship, personal development, self reliance and budget skills, career assessment and personal well-being with an emphasis on nutrition, computers and technology, employment readiness, workplace and social media etiquette, post-secondary tours, portfolio development and supervised work experience. The program is available to all southern Albertans from the TDCALA office.

Last week’s news in not extending funding for the program seems to go against Politician Speak 101 of a hand up, not a hand out in making productive members of society through the social safety net provided by taxpayers.

Let’s face it. Some people have the deck stacked against them in their lives comparatively to others. Some is self inflicted, but many times not when it comes to one’s socio-economic standing or a negatively-altering event that can occur in anyone’s life.

The Youth Employment Program attempted to help alleviate that. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of last week’s news was the short sightedness of the decision. According to facilitators of the program, there was no feedback requested to inquire of the progress of the people enrolled in the Youth Employment Program.

And to be fair, even a one-year window is not long enough to show the fruits of the labour that is the Youth Employment Program. People from the first intake back in October are still likely in post-secondary or trades avenues the program set them on the path for. The life skills the program taught are like a seed where the crop it springs from needs time to grow.

That begs the question, why even grant the Youth Employment Program a one-year window for funding and then pull the rug from under it? Making contributing members of society which is the program’s goal, is not a short-term vision. A three-year funding window would be more adequate to see the overall worth of the program and a proper bench mark. By that time, all the people that were in the first year of program intakes have had ample time to enter the workforce and see a noticeable change in their lives in the skills that the program has taught them for testimonials to see if the funding should continue.

Should not the purpose of a social safety net have its support through avenues so that it does not have to be relied upon over and over again by the same people, which promotes a greater cost efficiency? That is a goal that is at the very base of something like the Youth Employment Program, in giving people a hand up, not a hand out.

The federal government has every right to spend taxpayer money where it sees fit that will net the greatest return in its social safety net programs. But how does one know what the return is without doing any research or feedback?

Facilitators and students alike are currently fighting to get the decision reversed with a letter-writing campaign to various politicians.

Whether that task proves fruitful is anyone’s guess, but at the very least, people with the first-hand experience of the program should be able to present the impact the program has had on the lives of people who have enrolled in it for a request of continued funding.

If the letter-writing campaign does fall on deaf ears, it confirms the federal government just throws money around with no concrete plan or long-term vision. Something that should not only concern the people affected by the termination of funding of the Youth Employment Program after one year, but taxpayers in general as well.

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