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Employment Challenges for Rural Youth

by David Driver
In a country as vast as Canada, one of the challenges for an employment counsellor is to not only meet a client’s personal needs, but to also address the environment that they live in. And while it’s true that most of Canada’s population lives in urban centers, there are still a significant number of Canadians living in rural communities.

As an employment counsellor in Manitoba serving a rural city of 10,000, I have witnessed first-hand the unique barriers facing youth of rural regions that might not otherwise be a problem for their urban counterparts. Here are some of the major issues:

Lack of Transportation

With little-to-no public transportation available in most rural centers, youth of rural communities have limited options when finding ways to get to work. Since most youth are without a driver’s license and/or car, sometimes a walk of several kilometres to work is the only option for transportation, and the situation only worsens during the winter.

Lack of Training Opportunities

If a rural student fresh out of high school wishes to further their education by either attending college or university, they almost have no choice but to move away to an urban center. This can be discouraging for those who want to stay in their community, or can create problems for those who don’t have the means to travel back-and-forth from their rural home to school during the week.

Issues with Confidentiality

It’s harder to stay anonymous within smaller communities, and as a result sometimes a client’s “bad” work reputation will make their job search more difficult. Information about employees with poor work experiences is more likely to be spread around in rural communities than urban ones, thus impeding some individual’s chances of finding work in smaller towns.

Lack of Job Options

Rural communities have limited year-round employment options for youth. Most communities have an abundance of seasonal work, in particular in summer (e.g. construction, farming, landscaping, fishing, etc.) but a considerable lack of winter work. Given that labour jobs dominate the rural landscape, youth can sometimes find themselves unemployed for stretches at a time while they wait for the snow to melt.

Canada is filled with thousands of different rural communities and while it’s hard to generalize, it’s safe to say that the country’s rural labour market is vastly different from the country’s urban labour market. As difficult as it can be for inexperienced youth to find and keep work in the city, there are even more challenges for rural youth to conquer. It’s up to employment counsellors to help clients identify and stride towards overcoming those unique barriers.

David Driver is an Employment Counsellor at Options Employment Services for Youth in Selkirk, Manitoba. He has a B.A. from the University of Manitoba and is a Career/Employment Coach.

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