National initiative seeks to connect youth who experienced homelessness to 180 jobs by end of 2016

— A -wide initiative is seeking to connect youth who have experienced to major Canadian employers in a bid to put a dent into the number of young people on the streets.

HireUp — recognized as the first program of its kind — will function like Workopolis, inviting employers to post available positions on its online website. Partnering social agencies specializing in homeless youth will then submit the resumes of candidates — most of whom have no previous work experience — they feel are ready to enter the workforce.

The program is aiming to help connect homeless youth to 180 full-time jobs — and a slew of part-time jobs — at companies such as Home Depot Canada, and Nordstrom by the end of 2016.

We didn’t always have a place to sleep at night

The initiative is headed by Impakt, a company that works with corporations on projects that allows them to profit from being socially responsible.

“Here’s a way for any corporation to be involved in helping to solve youth homelessness in a way which is directly supporting their own hiring objectives,” Impakt president said.

“Youth face all kinds of barriers in terms of doing this on their own. The other thing is there hasn’t been a recognition among employers that this is a group of people you can look at seriously. It’s like a double negative.”

Canada’s national youth unemployment rate was 13.5 per cent in October, nearly double the general rate of 7.1 per cent.

Klein said employers will have to pay to use HireUp’s services but the profits will be reinvested into the partner social agencies.

360Kids is one 18 social agencies that will be using HireUp across Canada. The Markham, Ont., organization helps kids in crisis receive access to housing, employment and education and health support.

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Michael Braithwaite, executive director at 360Kids, said it’s often difficult for youth who have experienced homelessness to find a job because of employer perceptions.

“There is a stigma of being unreliable and unskilled, yet we see some of our kids, when they’re put in these places, they’re amazing and the employers love them,” Braithwaite said.

Braithwaite said after receiving housing, youth are trained on how to build resumés and perform in job interviews. 360Kids also provides training in customer service and how to deal with workplace conflict.

SubmittedSubmittedJustin Reynolds

, 18,  was homeless for the first five years of his life, often moving from city to city and basement to basement with his parents.

“We didn’t always have a place to sleep at night,” Reynolds said. “I thought that’s how people lived.”

His life stabilized when he went into foster care, but after turning 18, he was forced to move out.

Reynolds turned to 360Kids and now lives in his own apartment. He was also provided with the employment training that will make him a probable candidate to find employment through HireUp.

“It seems like a great opportunity for kids to find a job when they don’t have experience because of the whole you need a job to get a job (mindset),” Reynolds said.

Determined to never find himself in a similar situation again, Reynolds has finished high school and been accepted into three colleges. He plans to take a development services worker course and find work helping people with disabilities.

“It’s really pushed me to not (live like that again) and become a success. I want to do something with my life.”

About Victor Ferreira