French a major challenge for young anglo job seekers
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