Providing youth on the autism spectrum with skills and training to enter the workforce

News release

April 1, 2021              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

When young people have the tools, resources and supports they need to start their careers, they embark on a path to success. In recognition of the upcoming World Autism Awareness Day, we celebrate the many contributions that Canadians on the autism spectrum have made and continue to make in our communities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our everyday lives, young people in the autism community are especially feeling its impacts. From the need to adapt quickly to a new way of living, to social isolation and heightened barriers to inclusion, it is more important than ever to support young people on the autism spectrum on their path to success in workplaces and in their communities.

Today, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, announced that the Government of Canada is investing over $10 million through Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS) program to help more than 400 youth on the autism spectrum get the support and skills training they need now to find good jobs.

Edmonton’s NorQuest College has received funding through this YESS program for their Autism CanTech! project. Working with partners in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia, the project will give 250 employers the mentorship, training and assistive technology needed to leverage the skills of youth on the autism spectrum, helping theses young Canadians kick-start careers in a world driven by digital technologies.

Today’s announcement builds on the commitments made in both the 2020 Speech from the Throne and the Fall Economic Statement, which included creating more job opportunities for young Canadians through the YESS in response to the pandemic. The Government of Canada’s first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan will include a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities, including young Canadians on the autism spectrum, with the goal of eliminating the barriers and gaps to inclusion in the workforce.


“Employment is a gateway to independence, financial stability and inclusion. It has never been more important to support the need for meaningful and equitable employment for persons with disabilities, especially young Canadians with disabilities. This funding will go a long way in supporting young Canadians on the autism spectrum and breaking down barriers to access and inclusion in workplaces. We know that it takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to create long-lasting change and a culture of inclusion from the start. This is another step in that direction and a commitment to ensuring the success of young Canadians on the autism spectrum for years to come.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all Canadians and disproportionately certain segments, including young people on the autism spectrum. Through these investments, we are helping to empower and equip all young people to be leaders of tomorrow and today while giving them opportunities to succeed, now and into the future. Their contributions within the workplace are helping communities build back even better and consciously more inclusive.”
– Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Bardish Chagger

“Inclusion is fundamental for success in the workplace and beyond—we learn so much when we open ourselves to the experiences of others. Autistic youth have much to contribute to Canada’s economy, and our growing digital industry offers many outstanding opportunities for the bright, talented, eager youth who will enter the workforce thanks to the support of our partners in the Autism CanTech! Program.”
– Carolyn Campbell, President and CEO, NorQuest College

Quick facts

  • The Government of Canada is committed to supporting persons with disabilities in line with the Accessible Canada Act, which came into force on July 11, 2019, and principles and objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

  • In April 2020, the Government of Canada invested $492 million over three years, through ESDC’s YESS program, for 269 projects across Canada to help young people, especially those – like youth with disabilities – facing barriers to employment successfully transition to the labour market. Data from Statistics Canada indicates that youth with disabilities (aged 15 to 24) had an employment rate of 55% before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 39% in July 2020.

  • To support youth affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced in April and June 2020 increased funding by 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.

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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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