Pathways to Employability (P2E) Initiative

From navigating youth employment supports for small/medium businesses (including co-operatives) to providing youth with mentorship and training, the Pathways to Employability initiative is enabling change through its strategic partnerships with a goal of helping connect youth to meaningful employment and opportunities.

In the early months of COVID 19, 43% of working Canadian youth lost their jobs or had work hours reduced according to a 2020 Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey. As part of Co-operators Community Funds (CCF), the Pathways to Employability initiative focuses on providing employability supports through life skills training and employment reskilling opportunities for marginalized youth who have lost jobs or educational opportunities due to COVID-19.

The goal of the initiative is to facilitate the transition of youth into higher quality, sustainable, secure jobs through:

  • Partnering with service providers (employment, counselling, training, industry and business, government) to leverage offerings and financial support towards meaningful youth employment.
  • Connecting youth to small business employers and employment, life skills and psychosocial supports.
  • Supporting small business employers to find, hire, train and retain youth.

Our learnings from the #ImpactCOVID: Road to Recovery Project

In partnership with the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity (CCYP), Pathways to Employability provided funding for the #ImpactCOVID: Road to Recovery Project (phase 1), a unique youth-focussed, youth-researched, youth-authored recovery plan for Canada from the pandemic-induced recession of 2020-21. Using a combination of economic literature, socio-economic data and information collected from stakeholders, 77 youth researched an evidence-based recovery plan that can ensure a strengthened, resilient recovery from the pandemic, particularly for youth.

The 2021 Road to Recovery report was presented at a CCYP National Youth Summit, and revealed:

How the pandemic has impacted youth employment

  • Youth across the country lost jobs in the immediate aftermath of public health shutdowns early in the pandemic
  • Lackluster youth hiring and reduced co-op and internship opportunities continue due to economic uncertainty and downturn
  • Youth have paused post-secondary education due to lack of funds or uncertainty around online learning, delaying entrance into the workforce
  • Students in remote areas or from marginalized communities likely to suffer due to poor access to technologies and reduced access to employment opportunities

Solutions that will lead to a strengthened and resilient pandemic recovery

  • Investment required for youth capacity building through training, education and experiential learning opportunities
  • Assistance in attracting youth participation in the co-operative sector
  • Continued support to small businesses in key youth employing sectors
  • Practical training opportunities and meaningful experiences for youth that build soft skills like confidence, teamwork and collaboration
  • Greater understanding of how to navigate youth employment systems for both youth and employers.
  • Alongside the 2021 Road to Recovery report, the thought leaders researched and authored the Youth Engagement Toolkit which provides recommendations on engaging young people in advocacy, education, mentoring, and public action.

Our 2021 Pathways to Employability partners

As a result of insights from the first phase of the #ImpactCOVID: Road to Recovery project and through engagements with youth and our co-operative members, we are engaging in the following partnerships in 2021 and 2022:

Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity - #ImpactCOVID: Road to Recovery (phase 2)

  • Phase 2 of the project, launching in summer 2021, will see youth providing support for small business and non-profit employers, helping them find, hire, train and retain youth throughout the post-pandemic recovery. The program will also provide training and support to employment service providers, better preparing them to assist youth on their journey to meaningful employment. Youth are gaining valuable and impactful work experience with small businesses including co-ops, non-profits and social enterprises, and community partners. In turn, small businesses are building their capacity to hire, train and retain youth.

“The Co-operators is an amazing youth ally.”
– Aira Serrame, Co-Chair, National Youth Summit, Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity


Opportunity for All Youth - Digital Platform Tools & National Reverse Mentoring Program Powered by The Co-operators

  • In sponsorship with Opportunity for all Youth (O4AY), we will provide a two-year sponsorship of a national, bilingual digital employment supports portal including personal coaching, skills and interview training, peer-to-peer support, and job research tools. The platform will also provide ongoing data and insights on youth employment to improve experiences and outcomes, and inform the youth employment ecosystem as a whole. A reverse mentoring program will also connect youth to business leaders across the country, to build understanding in the value that youth can bring. The O4AY Youth Innovation Council, powered by The Co-operators, will ensure that programming is youth-informed, engaging and tailored to their specific needs.

“The P2E initiative is a powerful statement for job quality, access and security.”
– Yung Wu, CEO MaRS


Ontario Co-operative Association - Co-operative Minds

  • In partnership with the Ontario Co-operative Association, we will support the development of a project-based learning program for high-school students, designed to address the need for co-operative education in the classroom, while teaching the value of working collectively to solve real-world problems. Co-operative Minds connects youth to co-ops in their communities, provides authentic and meaningful ways for students to share their collective voice, and offers the opportunity to collaborate, think critically and communicate in ways that make our world a more co-operative place to live. These critical professional skills will also help bridge the gap for youth as they prepare to begin their post-secondary and employment future.

“Through collaboration, co-operation and idea sharing, this project will truly be impactful for all.”
– Michelle Christmann, Ontario Co-operative Association


Canadian Gap Year Association - Student of Leadership and Humanity Award

  • In partnership with The Canadian Gap Year Association, we will provide a two-year sponsorship of the GapYear Game Plan, to support young people who choose to take time off between secondary and post-secondary education to have a purposeful year through connection, volunteering and work experiences. We will also sponsor the Student of Leadership and Humanity Award, a unique certification under the themes of personal finance and life skills, planning for the future, wellbeing, mentorship and peer connection, and an independent project tied to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“I hope you realize what a game changer this is for the gap year movement. THANK YOU. This increased capacity will allow us to do things at such a faster pace and we will be able to support so many more young people on their journey to achieving their desired futures through skill-building and experiential learning. I am so thrilled to partner with you as I know how aligned The Co-operators is with the work CanGap is doing.”
– Michelle Dittmer, President & Co-Founder, Canadian Gap Year Association


CDR-Acadie Youth Services Co-operatives – Co-operative business model training

  • In partnership with CDR-Acadie, we will support a one-year pilot launching in fall 2021 to train and support young people aged 17-30 in the co-operative business model and create quality jobs through development of youth services cooperatives meeting the unmet needs of communities in New Brunswick.

The Youth Excellence Society BC - Youth Leadership Academy

  • In partnership with The YES, we will support the development of online programming to connect BC youth virtually through training in co-operation and competition, co-operatives and capitalism, co-op history, creative solutions through the co-op model, and meaningful work. These sessions will culminate with youth creating capstone projects to express what they have learned and implemented in their local communities.

Pathways to Employability is a $2 million initiative launched through Co-operators Community Funds (CCF). CCF supports non‐profit organizations, social enterprises, co‐operatives and charities whose programming and initiatives lead to job creation and/or enhanced employability for marginalized youth and individuals with mental health challenges.