French a ma­jor chal­lenge for young an­glo job seek­ers

Sherbrooke Record - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Lambie

Are­port re­leased on Thurs­day by Youth Em­ploy­ment Ser­vices (YES) Montreal high­lights the fact that there ap­pear to be larger gaps in ser­vice and bar­ri­ers faced by English-speak­ing young peo­ple in re­gions across Que­bec when it comes to ap­ply­ing for jobs than for their French-speak­ing coun­ter­parts. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the over­all un­em­ploy­ment rate among Que­bec’s English-speak­ing youth was 13.7 per­cent com­pared to 9.4 per­cent for French­s­peak­ing youth.

“We are rec­om­mend­ing that more re­sources be put to­wards sup­port­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­sti­tu­tions and agen­cies that serve English-speak­ing job seek­ers in the re­gions,” said Iris Unger, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of YES. “For in­stance, creating work­shops and train­ing in English for those re-en­ter­ing the job mar­ket or chang­ing ca­reers, of­fer­ing free or low­cost French-lan­guage train­ing, and

pub­li­ciz­ing ex­ist­ing English-lan­guage ser­vices are three rec­om­men­da­tions that are high­lighted in the re­port.”

The re­port, en­ti­tled “Em­ploy­ment in the Québec Re­gions: Needs As­sess­ment Study” was de­vel­oped with the help of Com­mit­tee for An­glo­phone So­cial Ac­tion (CASA), Me­gan­tic Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (MCDC), North Shore Com­mu­nity Al­liance (NSCA), Town­ship­pers As­so­ci­a­tion, Voice of English-speak­ing Québec (VEQ), and Neigh­bours Re­gional As­so­ci­a­tion of Rouyn-no­randa. It finds that In some ar­eas, such as the Côte-nord, the un­em­ploy­ment rate is 32.2 per­cent for English­s­peak­ers, com­pared with 11.1 per­cent for French-speak­ing youth. De­spite hav­ing higher lev­els of uni­ver­sity ed­u­ca­tion than the French-speak­ing ma­jor­ity, English-speak­ing Que­be­cers still have higher un­em­ploy­ment rates.

Ger­ald Cut­ting, Pres­i­dent of the Town­ship­pers As­so­ci­a­ton, hailed the study as a start­ing point for fur­ther work to sup­port the needs of the prov­ince’s English speak­ing mi­nor­ity.

“It’s pretty much what we’ve been say­ing for years.” Cut­ting said, not­ing that the Town­ship­pers As­so­ci­a­tion has long ques­tioned the con­trast be­tween the high ed­u­ca­tion level of lo­cal English speak­ers and the higher than av­er­age un­em­ploy­ment rate. “We need to look at why it is that these oth­er­wise qual­i­fied peo­ple are not get­ting jobs.”

The Town­ship­pers Pres­i­dent ar­gued that struc­tural is­sues in the hir­ing prac­tices of both pri­vate busi­nesses and the public sec­tor are con­tribut­ing to youth out­mi­gra­tion, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the ques­tion of bilin­gual­ism.

“What con­sti­tutes an ac­cept­able level of bilin­gual­ism needs to be ex­am­ined,” Cut­ting said, not­ing that it is not un­heard of for na­tive English speak­ers who are func­tion­ally bilin­gual to take sec­ond place to French speak­ers with an in­fe­rior knowl­edge of English. “There needs to be a better aware­ness of the bar­ri­ers our com­mu­nity faces.”

Across all re­gions, study par­tic­i­pants iden­ti­fied their French lan­guage skills as the most sig­nif­i­cant is­sue and bar­rier to job seek­ing, with be­tween 76 and 96 per cent of re­spon­dents iden­ti­fy­ing lan­guage as a prob­lem.

Us­ing the re­sults of this study as a start­ing point, Cut­ting sug­gested that lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal, fed­eral, and provin­cial gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives as well as mem­bers of the pri­vate sec­tor need to en­gage in more di­rected study of the em­ploy­ment chal­lenges fac­ing the English speak­ing mi­nor­ity. On a more short­term ba­sis, how­ever, he said that he feels that the gov­ern­ment should take a more ac­tive role in mak­ing it more in­ter­est­ing for busi­nesses to hire English speak­ers.

“Once you get these peo­ple into the work­place their em­ploy­a­bil­ity will sky­rocket,” the pres­i­dent said, ar­gu­ing that there is a need for more gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies to sup­port em­ploy­ing young An­glo­phones.

Town­ship­pers Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Rachel Hunt­ing high­lighted the fact that Town­ship­pers is cur­rently en­gaged in just such a project in part­ner­ship with the Car­refour Je­unesse Em­ploi and com­mu­nity groups in the Gaspé.

“The idea is to take a lit­tle bit of the pres­sure off of the or­ga­ni­za­tions in the re­gions,” Hunt­ing said, ex­plain­ing that the project in­volves re­source adap­ta­tion, trans­la­tion ser­vices, work­shop­ping and train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with lo­cal youth em­ploy­ment ser­vices to help build better con­nec­tions with English Youth. It is funded, she said, by the provin­cial Sec­re­tar­iat a la Je­unesse and over­seen by the Com­mu­nity Health and So­cial Ser­vices Network (CHSSN).

Now part­way into its sec­ond year, Hunt­ing said it is too soon to de­ter­mine ex­actly what the im­pact of the pi­lot project might be at this point.

Look­ing back at the YES study, the re­port makes sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions as to pos­i­tive ac­tions that could be taken, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing the ac­cess to on­line job search pro­grams and ser­vices for the English-speak­ing com­mu­nity, Of­fer­ing free or low-cost French-lan­guage train­ing to English-speak­ing job seek­ers in the Québec re­gions, and building stronger links be­tween ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and the lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity.

A copy of the full re­port, in­clud­ing de­tails on the vary­ing chal­lenges of the dif­fer­ent re­gions and the full text of the nine rec­om­men­da­tions is avail­able on­line at Yes­mon­treal.ca

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