A $75,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka was used to research why rural youth sometimes struggle to develop successful pathways after high school, with or without a diploma.
The grant was received in 2020.
In a media release, the YMCA said the goal was to understand where rural youth get information about life prospects and potential work, who influences their decision-making about their future, and specific barriers and limitations rural youth face in developing a pathway as they move through school.
“Around half the youth that walk through our doors looking for assistance in finding a job have no established direction, no picture of where they might fit into the job market, or post-secondary education,” according to the release, that quoted Karen Ferguson, Manager of Employment & Learning Services. “At our Midland location alone, that accounted for almost 200 youth every year prior to the pandemic. Paired with the fact that the job market and the skills required to work are rapidly changing, this can create a huge barrier for youth. This project gave the YMCA the opportunity to check in with youth, and some parents, to better understand how we might support them in their decision-making, as youth in rural and isolated communities look to create a path for themselves following high school.”
The project was completed in October 2021, and according to the YMCA, it has provided the organization with youth-informed insights to develop programs, resources, and opportunities to better engage young people in developing successful pathways after school,
Due to the pandemic, information was gathered through surveys, focus groups and online connections involving youth, parents and guardians from rural communities.
“I really enjoyed working on the program because it made me feel like I was helping with something that impacted people outside my community,” said one participant. “It was a great way to get involved with a cause that I, as a youth, can relate to.”
The YMCA will use the insights collected from these participants to create accessible and user-friendly programs, resources, and opportunities that will guide rural youth as they develop future pathways.
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