Empowering Black youth to achieve meaningful careers

News release

February 23, 2021              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to recognize the important contributions that Black communities have made and continue to make to building this country. It is equally important to acknowledge the barriers and challenges that Black communities face. That is why the Government of Canada will continue to take action to support Black youth, ensuring that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to achieve meaningful success through quality skills training and work placements.

Today, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, highlighted that the Government of Canada is investing over $4.78 million through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) program to help 218 Black youth get the skills and opportunities they need to transition into the workforce.

Africa Centre is one of the organizations that received funding through the YESS program as part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. Their initiative, “Boost Pathways to Success,” offers opportunities to Canadian youth of African decent to acquire and apply new skills through mentorships, pre-employment preparation, essential skills training and employment retention skills training. This program is helping participating youth gain skills and knowledge related to interviewing, completing job applications, job searching and résumé writing.

Diversity is essential to building a stronger workforce. The YESS program is just one of many programs provided by the Government of Canada to support Black communities for years to come.

Through the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program, an advisory council was tasked with making recommendations to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion on national and regional priorities related to skills development and training for Canadians. In the recently published report, Canada - A Learning Nation, the Future Skills Council recommended equal opportunities for lifelong learning as a top priority. It is a call to action for all sectors to do their part in creating a more inclusive labour market that removes structural and systemic barriers so that racialized individuals, including Black people, can fully participate in skills training and get jobs.


“Diversity and inclusion are fundamental parts of our country. When we acknowledge the barriers and challenges Black communities face and take action to support them, we build a stronger Canada. That is why I am proud to support organizations like Africa Centre, that work with African-Canadian youth and provides them with opportunities, training and mentorship We need to ensure that more organizations like this one can continue to grow and serve the needs of their communities. By doing so, we strengthen younger generations’ futures and help them succeed.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

“In Canada, diversity is one of our greatest strengths – diversity of ideas, of perspectives, and of lived experiences. As we build back even better and consciously more inclusive, we must ensure that all youth have equal opportunity to succeed and through the YESS, we are doing just that. This investment is empowering Black young leaders of tomorrow and today to build a better future for all Black communities in Canada”
– Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Bardish Chagger

Edmonton is one of the major Canadian cities with the highest concentration of Black Canadians. The “Boost pathways to success” program provides hope and empowerment for Black youth in Edmonton. Our program strives to enable youth to access decent quality employment opportunities. This year has been exceptionally challenging, but we were able to continue securing quality jobs for our youth while navigating COVID19 pandemic implications. We are most grateful to the federal government for the generous support and more importantly, for being a reliable partner in advancing African Canadians in Alberta. Together we seek to create an inclusive, resilient, and capable society.”
– Sharif Haji, Executive Director, Africa Centre

Quick facts

  • This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Government of Canada officially celebrating Black History Month. This year’s theme is “The Future is Now.” The Government invites all people in Canada to take part in the Black History Month virtual events across the country. 

  • In 2019, in recognition of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, the Government of Canada invested $25 million over five years in the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative. This initiative, led by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), supports projects that celebrate, share knowledge and build capacity in Canada’s vibrant Black Canadian communities.

  • The Government of Canada invested $492 million over three years through ESDC’s YESS program for 269 projects across Canada to help young people facing barriers to employment. 

  • To support youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada increased funding of up to $187.7 million to the YESS program to create 9,500 more work opportunities for young Canadians, particularly those facing barriers to employment. YESS projects managed by ESDC received up to $40 million for national programs that are providing flexible supports and targeted job opportunities for up to 4,700 youth aged 15 to 30, in the areas of social support services, transport, information technology, research and administration, and other placements that support community needs.

  • To support youth employment regional projects in the province of Quebec, the governments of Canada and of Quebec signed a contribution agreement in August 2019, through which the Government of Quebec will receive approximately $135 million over 5 years from ESDC’s YESS program for projects that exclusively benefit youth in the province of Quebec. A call for proposals was launched by the Government of Quebec in February 2020 to identify projects to be supported through this and other provincial investments to support youth skills and employment.

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For media enquiries, please contact:

Marielle Hossack
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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