Working for Youth Research Project

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By: Rishma Peera, Hodan Mohamed, Lisa Sourani
Org: Pinecrest-Queensway Health and Community Services
Date: 2000

A study examining key barriers faced by newcomer youth seeking employment in the Ottawa-Carleton area. This research study aimed to identify key barriers faced by newcomer youth wanting to become participants in the labour force and to derive strategies to support their entry and success into the labour market.

Focus groups and interviews were conducted with youth participants between the ages of 16 and 24, unemployed or underemployed, not in school on a full-time basis and born outside Canada. Most resided in the West-end of Ottawa. They represented Somali, Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, Serbo-Croatian and Russian language groups.

Key Findings

The research indicated that newcomer youth do not have adequate support to integrate and participate fully in the labour market; however, these youth have a strong desire to belong. In spite of their persistent efforts to find and keep jobs, newcomer youth are struggling to fit in mainly due to:

  • background factors, which include a cumulative disadvantage for many of them, especially youth who have arrived as refugees and visible minorities (e.g. low socio-economic status, immigration conditions, social housing arrangements and families headed by single parents);
  • individual factors, such as the ability to set goals and have motivation. These factors are affected by few opportunities, especially for refugees;
  • institutional factors, which are not meaningful to newcomer youths essentially because their particular needs are not met.

The authors concluded that the main barriers facing youth related to lack of experience, limited networks, lack of information, discrimination, language and lack of long term opportunities.


  • For the newcomer youth most at risk of not integrating into the labour market, an integrated approach is required, which combines employment skills training with soft skills, life skills and counselling. This strategy is essential to address the multiple needs of youth-at-risk.
  • A Newcomer Youth Information Network would provide newcomer youth and their parents with information on the context of finding employment in this society. This network would serve as a bridge between newcomer youths and services, and provide an ongoing cultural liaison as well as an advocacy component.
  • Preventative measures aimed at newcomer youth that are at risk of dropping out of school in partnership with key resources within the schools.
  • Existing employment services may self-reflect and attempt to create critical linkages with newcomer communities as well as increase the latter’s representation among their services.
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