Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, I am pleased to be here as a young francophone Canadian and on behalf of the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française. This organization represents the interests of francophone youth right across the country. I am pleased to be here to talk to you about investing in youth to revitalize the job market in francophone minority communities.
As regards youth employment, the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française has served as a delivery organization for programs stemming from the Youth Employment Strategy for over 20 years.
In the brief we are presenting today, we make three main recommendations.
First, we recommend that the Government of Canada increase access to jobs and training opportunities in French for youth throughout the country.
Second, we recommend that the Government of Canada invest further and foremost in funding the Young Canada Works in Both Official Languages program, and in offering quality paid internships for francophone students in francophone minority communities throughout the country, through the Young Canada Works at Building Careers in English and French program.
Finally, we recommend that the Government of Canada consult French-speaking youth living in a minority context and take their needs and realities into account when updating the Youth Employment Strategy.
Employment is an important issue for French-speaking youth, right across the country. Moreover, that is what we often hear in the field and at youth gatherings hosted by the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française. Young people are saying there are big gaps in access to jobs in French and in their communities, right across the country.
They are also pointing to many problems that are important realities for youth, including with respect to their transition to the labour market. Here are a few examples: difficulty finding work in their field of study; access to French-language or even bilingual jobs; academic over-qualification, often combined with a lack of job experience; high student debt; and so forth.
Young people aspire to find work in their language and in their field of study, jobs that offer competitive wages, for a respectable period of time, and once again in their home communities. They are also looking for work experience that promotes bilingualism or linguistic duality in the workplace.
Fortunately, there are some programs that facilitate the labour market integration of francophone youth and promote the economic development of francophone minority communities, such as Young Canada Works. The sub-component, Young Canada Works in Both Official Languages, is the only Youth Employment Strategy program that focuses specifically on the official languages.
Since 1996, this program has helped young Canadians develop their job skills and get summer job experience in their second official language. This program is important for young people as it facilitates their labour market integration and promotes the economic development of francophone minority communities in particular. This is a good start, but we can do better.
Offering internships for young graduates would also be an excellent way of facilitating their labour market integration, as well as an excellent way of contributing to the economy, in particular by developing bilingual workers right across the country. The Young Canada Works at Building Careers in English and French component is currently limited to creating international internships. Although creating internships in Canada is one of the program objectives, there is currently no budget for that objective, which we consider very unfortunate.
We hope therefore that the Government of Canada will invest further and foremost in funding these two existing programs. Investing in these programs would make it possible, among other things, to create internships in key sectors and, in particular, would help francophone minority communities keep more young people in their home communities, while also contributing to our country's economic vitality.
The government is also preparing to revise and update the Youth Employment Strategy. In doing this, the government must, in our opinion, take an exhaustive approach. For all the proposed changes to the strategy, the government must consider the specific needs of francophone youth and of francophone minority community organizations. This strategy is very important for young people.
In our opinion, all the programs and initiatives in the Youth Employment Strategy must respect and promote Canada's two official languages. We have the collective responsibility to consider the problems young workers face and to find solutions to the obstacles they have to overcome. We have to give them the tools to develop self-confidence and be able to find their place in the labour market, while also becoming active in society and serving as agents of change in our respective communities.
Thank you for listening. We invite you to look at our brief that was distributed earlier and that provides further details.
We will be pleased to answer your questions.