Nova Scotians are no strangers to youth unemployment problems. In the five years since 2008/09’s “Great Recession,” Nova Scotians under 35 have lost many more jobs than they have gained. As of August 2014, Nova Scotia’s youth unemployment rate was 16.6%, (ages 15-24) still more than twice the 7.6% rate of 25-54 year olds. Meanwhile, the oneNS Report made it clear that Nova Scotia’s ongoing demographic aging transition – driven by low birthrates, youth outmigration, and a poor record on immigration – threatens our Province’s ability to maintain basic public services into the future.
This StudentsNS position paper explores the student and youth employment issue in Nova Scotia by: reviewing recent economic literature and labour market statistics; critically examining existing economic development and youth labour market policies of the Federal and Provincial Governments; and similarly examining experiential learning and career development programs available at each of Nova Scotia’s 11 post-secondary institutions.
We find that, despite hundreds of millions in public resources directed toward these overlapping priorities, it is often difficult to isolate the impact of many programs and initiatives on actual student and youth employment in Nova Scotia. Moreover, whatever their individual and collective impacts, it is clear that the existing suite of programs and services (i.e. business-as-usual) will not be sufficient to dramatically alter our Province’s demographic or economic trajectories.
With this in mind, we make a number of recommendations aimed at the Nova Scotia government, our post-secondary institutions, and every single employer in the Province of Nova Scotia. We identify the urgent necessity for a Youth Attraction and Retention Strategy to be led by the Province and implemented collaboratively by government, employers, and relevant youth-serving organizations. Embedded within the proposed strategy is the critical objective to ensure maximum impact from each public dollar spent on student and youth employment; this means investing more in the kinds of programs that lead to actual employment opportunities and spending less on programs that do not.