This past week saw the birth of a very dynamic exchange between community organizations and young English speakers living in the Eastern Townships who want to be a part of creative solutions to real challenges.
CBC Quebec, Canadian Heritage and Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) joined forces to host the very first co-lab at Bishops University in Lennoxville.
Among the number of organizations involved, CEDEC’s Lori Albert and Nina Kim presented CEDEC’s challenge, Designing Job Ready Solutions that Work, which attracted an impressive and dynamic group including Hassan Nawaz, Akhin Jose, Jasminder Singh, and Jessica Adams.
Not only were these four intelligent young people new connections for CEDEC, they met each other for the first time as well.
Immediately, they jumped in to tackle the challenge and unanimously agreed that despite labour shortages in Quebec, young qualified job seekers face challenges when trying to pierce the workforce, even more so if their French language skills still need improvement.
They said that youth whose first language is English – or in some cases their third or fourth language – lack confidence when applying for jobs in Quebec. While they may have the technical qualifications, they fear that their French language skill level will hold them back. This kicked off a dynamic brainstorming session at #TEAMCEDEC around practical and proactive solutions to help young workers integrate better into the labour market.
“It was very important that the youth take ownership of this challenge and be at the centre of it,” said Lori Albert, CEDEC Director involved with CEDEC Youth StartUp, adding that CEDEC’s approach was to facilitate the conversation, listen, and watch leadership grow within the group.
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Solution : A Tool for Employers
After much discussion, the group formulated an approach that would not only benefit themselves as young job seekers, but it would also benefit employers who want to build an inclusive and diverse workforce and a strong team approach.
An analytical tool could be developed for employers to evaluate both a potential employee’s French language skills alongside the actual language requirements for a position in the company. With that knowledge in hand, a second step, a mentorship or buddy system to acquire the language skills to grow in the job could be initiated. This would not only address the skills competencies, it could also create the much needed social support that young people benefit from as they enter the workforce.
While the team prepared their pitches for the judges, they incorporated – in real-time – some of the practical realities that come into play such as partnerships and possible funding. A presentation by Ashley Werhun, co-owner of Mentorly, planned as part of the co-lab event, inspired #TEAMCEDEC, to propose a partnership with her company.
“When we heard the presentation from Mentorly, we saw right away the potential for a partnership. We were so excited that Ashley could see our vision and agreed to get involved in moving it forward,” said Jessica Adams, a member of #TeamCEDEC, who pitched the project idea to the judges along with Hassan Nawaz.
The Language Assessment Support Toolkit (LAST) is the proposed solution to CEDEC’s challenge including distribution through CEDEC Small Business Support and the continuum of service providers that CEDEC works with including Chambers of Commerce and other industry associations, and partners across Quebec including Place aux jeunes, regional associations and CLDs.
Building tomorrow’s leaders
“I was so inspired working with this group. Their insight, determination and knowledge were all well beyond their years,” said Albert. “While our pitch didn’t take home the grand prize, we came away with a great potential solution to a common challenge faced by young people across Quebec. We’re also quite proud that #TeamCEDEC was unique in our approach of stepping back and insisting our team of youth take the reins of the project. We were the support, but they provided the insight and knowledge that led to the solution.”
“The co-lab experience with #TEAMCEDEC was invigorating!” affirmed Adams. “Our team brainstorm stood out from the rest in that we really were provided the opportunity to lead the discussions and shape the outcomes, all the while being guided by our CEDEC leaders’ expertise and enthusiasm. I am so grateful for the connections made through this unique experience.”
Hassan Nawaz agrees. “Working these past few days at the CBC co-lab with Team CEDEC was not only a unique but also an amazing opportunity. (Lori and Nina) provided not only the means and tools for innovation but brought incredible knowledge and immense fun to address an issue important among primary English speakers. Although project LAST did not win the competition, it was a true success!”