$4 million for jobs
Plan will fund people aged 15 to 24 years

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 14/97) - A $4-million venture has been launched by the GNWT to put more young people to work.

The program will support jobs that last from six weeks to 52 weeks.

And it's a partnership as opposed to just the government going it alone -- because, as Employment Minister Charles Dent said, the GNWT "can't meet that challenge on its own."

The catch is the partners, targeted by the GNWT, now have to learn about the plan to get on board.

Dent believes the private sector, municipal governments, band councils and other organizations "must join in the effort to reduce youth unemployment and increase youth skills."

Called Working Together -- Providing Opportunities for Students and Youth, the two-year plan begins April 1. It comes hard on the heels of a federal government job plan announced last month by MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew.

Dent unveiled the program Monday, along with Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus, chair of the standing committee on government operations.

Afterwards, Dent said the idea was put together over the previous two or three weeks, but the government had been working at finding money a lot longer than that.

The scheme "should translate into more long-term employment," said Dent.

During the joint announcement, he said it's apparent that "youth face many significant challenges in finding and keeping jobs.

"When I say youth I'm talking about people between the ages of 15 and 24. The unemployment rate for that category of Northerners is 28 per cent compared to 17 per cent for all adults."

And over the next 10 years the North is facing a shocking youth population increase of nearly 30 per cent.

"Those without the education and skills to be productive will be unemployed. That results in higher social costs," said Dent.

"Many young people are faced with the dilemma of 'can't get a job because of no experience, can't get experience because can't get a job.' The program I'm announcing today is designed to help break that vicious cycle."

xxxThe program

The territorial government will provide up to $5 an hour for each student or unemployed youth hired by a qualified employer, who must pay at least the minimum wage.

The two-part program is aimed first at helping post-secondary and senior high school students in their search for summer work.

Second, it's aimed at young people who have been unemployed for at least three months.

Erasmus said the private sector, band councils and municipalities must invest in the future by hiring students so they are not forced south to look for work.