Access to education and employment key to poverty reduction

“Policies aimed at improving access to education and the ability to obtain employment complement each other in breaking the cyclical nature of poverty.”

Poverty is not an individual problem; it is everyone’s problem. Canada is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet we are becoming one of the most unequal. A combination of policies aimed at creating an accessible education system and access to employment opportunities is key to reducing these inequalities.

We hear all the time that education is key to success. It is engrained in our minds from when we are kids. While the provision of education is important, students need the opportunity to transition from secondary or postsecondary education into adequate employment after they complete their studies. I graduated from Memorial University in 2014 and I know firsthand the struggle of trying to find that first job after university. It took me over a year to secure a full-time job and I know others who took longer. If students coming out of school are unable to find a job, they either have to rely on their parents, if they are lucky, find a low paying job or end up applying for social services benefits.

Provinces around the country have come to develop poverty reduction strategies to try and combat this issue. Quebec was the first in 2002 and Newfoundland and Labrador followed in 2006. Both strategies included extensive policies aimed at education initiatives to make the ability to access and obtain an education easier for those most in need. Both poverty reduction strategies have been instrumental in improving high school graduation rates as well as reducing overall poverty levels.

What these strategies have lacked in is creating an adequate transition from education to employment. In Newfoundland and Labrador, even with a major increase in high school graduation rates as well as an increase in students going on to postsecondary studies, there is still a high percentage of people not in education, employment or seeking employment. I hope the government will take this into consideration in addressing this issue as they continue to develop their new vision for the province, “The Way Forward”.

When one individual suffers from poverty, we all suffer as a result.

Government has many tools at its disposal to create policies aimed at removing barriers for students transitioning from school into the workplace. The Ontario Provincial Government has implemented the Youth Job Connection Program. The government partnered with employers as well as community groups to provide funding in order to allow youth to obtain mentorship opportunities to assist them in securing employment. Through this policy, over 2500 new jobs have been created, 63 new companies have been launched and over $160 million have been leveraged in investments.

The more opportunities available for people to transition into employment creates positive trickle-down effects for everyone else. This transition would allow for innovation, economic development and prosperity as these educated people have the opportunity to start their own business, travel the world or join an existing institution. This new generation of knowledge and talent is important for development and economic prosperity for our province as well as our country as the world becomes a more globalized place and our economic environments becomes more intertwined.

Policies aimed at improving access to education and the ability to obtain employment complement each other in breaking the cyclical nature of poverty. These policies improve overall economic prosperity for the province and create a cohesive society where everyone benefits. When one individual suffers from poverty, we all suffer as a result. We have the ability to fix this issue and we owe it to our fellow citizens to do so.

John Conway / St. John’s

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