Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program—Youth Focused Projects—What this program offers

What this program offers

The Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program (YESS Program) provides funding to organizations to deliver a range of activities that help youth (aged 15 to 30) overcome barriers to employment. In particular, the YESS Program focuses on youth facing multiple barriers to employment by supporting them to develop the skills and gain the experiences they need to find and keep quality jobs. The YESS Program supports a flexible approach that offers services tailored to each individual. As such, applicants must clearly demonstrate how their project will respond to individual youth needs. This can include mentorship, wrap-around supports (for example, mental health counseling, coaching, etc.) and paid work experiences. The 2023 YESS Program CFP is expected to provide eligible organizations with over $300 million over four years, with a maximum funding per agreement of $5 million per year.

This CFP aims to fund projects that support all youth facing barriers to employment. In addition, this call includes a Youth with Disabilities Stream that seeks to increase the availability of inclusive programming supporting youth with disabilities. Twenty percent (20%) of the funded projects will focus on serving and addressing the unique employment challenges faced by youth with disabilities. To be considered under the Youth with Disabilities Stream, proposals need to demonstrate that they meet specific criteria, as outlined in the Who Can Apply section. 

Applications submitted through this intake could be considered for funding under both the Youth Facing Barriers to Employment Projects and the Youth with Disabilities Focused Projects.

This CFP also incorporates a pilot initiative, which aims to help not-for-profit, youth-serving organizations improve their collection and use of data. Improving data collection and use supports continuous improvement and more effective responses in the youth employment sector. The pilot will be conducted as an experiment aimed at enhancing organizational capacity (for example, staff development, utilization of digital tools, data-driven testing, etc.). Taking an experimental approach helps the department to determine successful practices, which ultimately fosters program effectiveness and efficiency.

On this page

Program objectives

The objectives of the YESS Program are:

  • To help youth overcome barriers to employment, with a particular focus on under-represented youth including Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+, Black and other racialized youth, youth in Official Language Minority communities, and youth with disabilities 
  • Ensure all youth participants have access to wrap-around supports that are tailored and responsive to their individual needs
  • Ensure organizations engage with employers to inform the design of programming or facilitate successful conditions and opportunities for quality work experiences for youth facing barriers
  • Assist youth in developing a broad range of skills and knowledge in order to participate in the current and future labour market
  • Promote education and skills acquisition as being key to labour market participation
  • Improve capacity, increase performance, and increase impact measurement across the youth employment sector

Funding priorities

Priority may be given to proposed projects that:

  • Are submitted by youth-led organizations (with at least 50% of organization's leadership (director positions and above), and/or if applicable, at least 50% of the organization's governance body (for example, Board of Directors) being between 15 and 30 years of age.)
  • Are submitted by grassroots organizations that are often small, local organizations that offer supports to youth at the community level
  • Are submitted by organizations whose leadership (at least 50% of organization's leadership (director positions and above), and/or if applicable, that at least 50% of the organization's governance body (for example, Board of Directors)) reflects the youth communities they aim to serve
  • Are submitted by organizations that serve equity-deserving communities that are key priorities for the YESS Program including: Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+, Black and other racialized communities, and persons with disabilities
  • Support youth facing multiple and compounding barriers to employment (for example, early leavers from high school, youth living in low-income households, unhoused youth and youth experiencing precarious housing, single parent youth)
  • Involve working in partnership with other youth employment stakeholders
  • Test social innovations to improve project outcomes for youth

The selection of recommended projects will aim to have regional coverage across Canada, with service to youth in rural, remote, and urban settings, including Official Language Minority Communities.


Here is a list of key terms used within this application guide

Disability: Consistent with the Accessible Canada Act, disability means any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment, or a functional limitation, whether permanent, temporary, or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

Employment Barriers: Anything that inhibits an individual’s ability to find and keep employment.

Youth who face barriers to employment often include:

  • youth who are early leavers from high school
  • recent immigrant youth
  • youth from Black and racialized community groups
  • youth living with disabilities
  • single parent youth
  • youth living in low-income households
  • youth experiencing homelessness or precarious housing
  • youth living in rural or remote areas

Grassroots Organizations: Organizations that provide a holistic, personalized approach to the youth they serve. They are typically small organizations led by staff and volunteers with lived experience in the types of supports and services offered to youth. These organizations typically emerge from the communities that they serve.

Individualized Wrap-Around Supports: Formal services, supports, strategies and interventions that help ensure youth facing multiple challenges can fully participate in the labour force and the broader community. Wrap-around supports are individually tailored, responsive and accessible to each youth. Supports are used to help participants meet living expenses, address any health or disability impediments, and acquire skills and knowledge. Supports increase the likelihood of participant success. Examples include mental health supports, childcare, and transportation subsidies, among others.

Intake Mechanism: An approach to programming in which incoming youth participants are required to complete a formal assessment, which identifies their individual needs and supports the development of a plan for how to best support these individual needs.

Intersectional barriers: People may experience overlapping forms of discrimination or disadvantage based on multiple and diverse identity factors. Examples of identity factors that may intersect include, but are not limited to, gender identity, sexual orientation, living or having lived with a disability, racial or ethnic background.

NEET Youth: Refers to youth (aged 15 to 30) who are involuntarily not in employment, education, or training (NEET).

Partnerships: An approach in which organizations collaborate to offer a comprehensive array of support and services to youth. This streamlines and enhances the service experience for young individuals, for example, by facilitating referrals between organizations, helping them navigate various service options to address a multitude of challenges, such as training, housing, transportation, childcare, and more.

Social Innovations: The design and implementation of new approaches, tools, or models to improve outcomes for youth participants. These social innovations have a clearly defined goal that contributes to better outcomes for program participants. Better outcomes could be through improvements to direct services or by increasing the organization’s ability to be more effective and responsive to participants’ needs.

Youth furthest from Employment: Youth aged 15 to 30 who are chronically not in employment, education or training (6 months plus), and who have other unmet basic needs (for example, income security, housing, disability, health, etc.) that undermine their employability. These youths also experience broader systemic barriers that negatively impact their ability to find and keep employment.

Here is a list of intervention types under this program

Quality Employment Opportunity: A structured work experience intervention where the participant earns wages. It provides the participant with a means to enhance employability and occupational skills in an on-the-job setting. The work experience must meet the following minimum requirement and at least one of the additional requirements to qualify as an intervention.

Minimum requirement

  • Work environment must be safe, respectful, inclusive, free of harassment, abuse, and discrimination and in compliance with all applicable laws

Additional requirements:

  • Work experience offers skills development and training opportunities
  • Work experience is related to the interests and pursuits of youth
  • Work experience offers a salary that is above the minimum wage
  • Work experience offers opportunities for advancement

The quality of the employment opportunities can be measured in several ways. For example:

  • The work experience invests in youth by paying above the minimum wage of the province or territory
  • The work placement employer commits to retain the youth as an employee beyond the period of the wage subsidy
  • Supervision and mentoring plans are developed and maintained and demonstrate both short and long-term support for the success of the youth by:
    • observing, evaluating, and providing feedback on performance
    • providing guidance related to the professional and career-development goals of the youth
    • providing an opportunity for the youth to develop the skills needed for current and future employment
  • The quality work experience occurs in a safe, inclusive, and healthy work environment
  • Youth continue to receive wraparound supports while employed

Employment Services: activities that help youth to plan for a career or job, as well as to search for and obtain work. Participants gain information and skills and have an opportunity to apply these skills in a supported environment.

The subject matter must be employment-oriented and may include:

  • career and occupation information
  • career planning
  • job search techniques
  • applying for a job
  • preparing a resume and cover letter
  • preparing for and conducting a job interview
  • accepting, starting and maintaining a job

Accredited Skills Training: enables youth to take courses that improve job readiness or provide job qualifications by filling specific, identified gaps in their education and skills. This intervention may be used when there is no other available means of meeting skill requirements. The recipient must confirm that the course in question will help the participant prepare for employment and must monitor the participant’s progress. As well:

  • The course is a necessary and logical step towards the youth’s employment goal
  • The institution must be registered with the province or territory
  • If the training is occupation-specific, there must be good employment prospects for the occupation in the area where the youth plans to work. (Labour market information will be used to determine employment prospects)

Employment Skills Training: consists of pre-employment activities that help participants gain or enhance employability skills. Participants may need this type of training before they take on a work experience.

Workshops may focus on such skills as personal management, effective interpersonal relations, teamwork, leadership, communication, and basic computer use. The Conference Board of Canada Employability Skills provides more information.

This intervention is not used for occupation-specific skills or credentials but may include short-term training that applies to a range of occupations. Examples are training on First Aid, Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, and handling dangerous substances.

Entrepreneurship Skills Training: enables youth to develop the skills they need to establish an enterprise and become capable as business people. Participants should be youth with the interest, ambition, and aptitude to run their own business. Assessing aptitude should be part of the participant selection process.

A project may be designed to meet participant needs, whether for a group or an individual. The project may offer:

  • skills enhancement
  • assistance with developing and implementing a business plan
  • support during business start-up
  • mentorship
  • follow-up support

Here is a list of supports under this program

Mentorship: an arrangement under which a senior or more experienced individual (the mentor) acts as an advisor, counsellor, or guide to a junior or new employee (the mentee). The relationship promotes personal and professional development, and objectives are focused on personal growth. Within the YESS Program, the mentor is responsible for providing support and feedback to the participant. Typically mentoring is done over a longer period and is not as intensive as on-the-job training or job coaching.

Coaching: the training of an employee by a specialist on a one-on-one basis. The coach uses structured, specialized techniques to help the employee learn to perform job tasks to the employer’s standards. The coach can also provide counselling and other services to help the participant to integrate into the job, work well with others, and develop other skills needed to maintain employment. Coaching may complement on-the job training.

Client Assessment: the process of determining a participant’s strengths and needs so that the recipient may arrange appropriate interventions and supports. Typically, the assessment results in a plan (formal or informal) that describes the participant’s path to achieving employment, training or education goals.

Case Management: a means of ensuring that a participant’s needs are identified and addressed in a holistic and coordinated manner. The process is one that tracks the participant’s progress, and brings together the service providers and resources needed to support the participant toward a positive outcome.

Disability Supports: employment-related or participation aids that a youth may require as a result of having a disability. Participants who need such supports should be assessed by a qualified, certified assessor to determine the type, duration and structure of assistance needed.  These can include:

  • Accessibility supports, which refers to services that promote ability and health, and may include sign language interpretation, support workers, mental health services, etc.
  • Workstation modifications which involves making changes to a physical workstation to accommodate needs identified through an ergonomic or other assessment. These supports can include assistive or specialized software or devices, technical aids, lowered or raised work surfaces, etc.

Flexible work arrangements: are non-standard arrangements that are intended to foster equitable participation in the workplace.  These can include:

  • Flexible time-off to allow participants the opportunity to participate in religious, cultural, social, familial or personal activities that are significant to them
  • Flexible hours (for example, flexible or non-standard hours and days of work, frequent breaks, etc.)
  • Ability to work from home on a part-time, full-time or as-needed basis

Health supports: provide a youth with required health-related assistance so that the youth may fully participate in and benefit from project interventions. Health supports may be provided if the participant does not have coverage through provincial, territorial or private insurance plans or the participant’s coverage falls under federal jurisdiction (as in the case of Indigenous youth and veterans).  Health supports can include:

  • Mental health supports to assist the participant to access required mental health services
  • Addiction supports to assist the participant in efforts to address or deal with addiction (their own or that of a family member)
  • Medication supports to enable the participant to obtain physician-prescribed medication (it may include medication used to treat addiction)
  • Assistance with other health needs may include assistance with dental health, which must be pre-approved by ESDC

Social supports: provide socially-focused assistance required so that the youth can fully participate in and benefit from YESS Program interventions.  These can include:

  • Employee networks to provide the participant with social, practical or emotional support through structured networks, so that the youth can better adapt to and perform well in the project or workplace
  • Healing or resource centres to provide the participant with social support information or services on an as-needed basis
  • Housing supports to provide the participant with assistance to obtain suitable accommodations
  • Other social supports assist the participant with other social needs, such as through counselling or group therapy

Space for cultural or spiritual/religious practices: involves providing a suitable physical setting for cultural, spiritual or religious practices (for example, smudging, prayer, meditation) that are significant to the participant.

Culturally-appropriate supports for Indigenous people: incorporate Indigenous history, culture and practices into project activities. They also can connect Indigenous participants with Elders for teachings and mentorship. These supports are delivered by Indigenous peoples within the community who share the culture.

Support for childcare or dependents care: financial assistance to ensure that care costs are not a social barrier for a participant’s access to or participation in the project. Support may be provided for the care of any dependent, whether a child or an adult.

Support for transportation or relocation costs: financial assistance to offset the costs of transportation or relocation required for the youth to participate in the project. Support can be provided for gas, bus, train, plane (for fly-in communities), bikes, taxis, and rideshare arrangements.

Support for living expenses: financial assistance when the participant receives no other income support or when income from other sources is insufficient to meet the participant’s needs. It provides the means for the participant to cover such basic living expenses as accommodation, food, laundry, phone service, and local transportation while participating in the project. Covering these expenses allows the participant to concentrate their efforts on their interventions, thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Completion bonus: a support that can motivate and encourage participants to complete activities and achieve their goals.  Provision of the completion bonus may be based on such factors as attendance, hours completed, or interventions completed.

Page details

Date modified: