Backgrounder: Youth Employment Modernization


Ensuring that Canadian youth have the skills and training they need to succeed in today’s ever-changing labour market is a key priority for the Government of Canada. Since 1997, the Youth Employment Strategy (YES) has helped young people make the transition from school to work, and get a strong start in their careers.

In Budget 2016, the Government announced the creation of the Expert Panel on Youth Employment. The Panel’s mandate was to consult broadly and assess challenges that youth facing barriers encounter in finding and keeping jobs, and provide advice to government on modernizing the strategy.

In June 2017, the Panel released its final report, 13 Ways to Modernize Youth Employment in Canada, which called for the strategy to better meet the needs of youth in an ever-shifting labour market, to be more youth-centric and flexible, to better serve youth facing barriers and Indigenous youth.

The YES has been redesigned to respond to a range of labour market challenges faced by youth, particularly those facing barriers to employment, and ensure all Canadian youth have a fair chance of success.

ESDC Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) funding

The YESS is a modernized strategy, which builds on the previous YES, to ensure all young Canadians have opportunities to develop their skills and find meaningful employment. It aims to provide flexible services tailored to each individual, broadened eligibility, and enhanced supports to help young Canadians in developing skills and gaining experience necessary to successfully transition into the labour market.

The YESS provides funding to organizations to deliver a range of activities that help youth overcome barriers to employment and develop a broad range of skills and knowledge in order to participate in the current and future labour market. Investments will be made to build partnerships and encourage collaboration among service providers to share best practices and increase capacity in youth employment. Support will be tailored to meet the needs of all youth, with enhanced services for youth who face barriers to employment. These barriers often include:

  • Leaving high school early,
  • recent immigration to Canada,
  • identifying as part of a visible minority group,
  • living with disabilities,
  • single parenthood,
  • living in low-income households,
  • homelessness or precarious housing,
  • living in rural or remote areas.

For these youth, barriers often intersect and they are more likely to be among the youth population who are involuntarily not in employment, education or training.

Acknowledging that some Indigenous youth face unique circumstances, the YESS is designed to maximize opportunities for them, including more culturally-specific support and services.

The Government of Canada is engaging with Indigenous partners, service providers and youth to understand how to better support Indigenous youth in their pathways to employment.

The previous streams offered by the YES, Skills Link, Career Focus, and Summer Work Experience (excluding Canada Summer Jobs), have been merged together to create a more holistic approach to funding and service delivery. Additionally, beginning in the summer of 2019, the Canada Summer Jobs program has expanded eligibility to all youth aged 15-30.

Call for Proposals

Organizations will have from June 3, 2019 to July 26, 2019 to apply for funding. Projects may start as early as April 1, 2020.

Over three years, the YESS will provide up to $600 million to organizations that deliver a range of activities that help youth overcome barriers to employment and develop a broad range of skills and knowledge in order to participate in the current and future labour market.

The YESS program also encourages collaborations and innovation to increase capacity across the youth service provider network (e.g., employers, service delivery organizations and educational institutions), to better support youth, and to help employers hire and retain youth, in particular those who face barriers.

Projects can be national or regional in scope:

  • National: Project activities must take place in three or more provinces or territories.
  • Regional: Project activities can be provincial, territorial, or local in scope, but are limited to one province or territory.

For complete details on eligibility and other requirements, please visit

Available Funding

Through YESS, the Government of Canada invests more than $330 million in youth employment and skills programming under the Youth Employment Strategy, with recent successive investments bringing the total for all participating departments to over $400 million in 2016-17 and $530 million in 2017-18. This investment supports the new YESS as well as the Canada Summer Jobs program.

To further expand employment opportunities for young Canadians, through Budget 2018, the government is providing an additional $448.5 million over five years starting in 2018–19, to modernize the strategy, as well as to continue providing more Canada Summer Jobs in summer 2019.

The Government of Canada will continue to invest in helping young people gain the skills and experience that they need for a fair chance of success through the modernized Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. In addition to funding provided from Budget 2018, it also includes investments from Budget 2019 which proposes to invest an additional $49.5 million over five years beginning in 2019-20.

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