By Megan Russell

Have you ever asked yourself: What am I going to do with my life? What is the right career path? Will I like what I’m doing? If so, you are not alone.

Young people today continue to face these difficult decisions. In 2018, an overwhelming number of Canadian youth were reported as feeling anxious and unprepared to enter the workplace.

Now imagine being a recent immigrant to Canada. Being both young and lacking experience can make the transition to a new community even more overwhelming.

But this is where CCI can help. Our Youth Program helps young newcomers settle and integrate by offering them workshops on employment and life skills, help with school, and activities to help them connect to the community.

We also rely on partnerships to provide young newcomers with exciting opportunities. One of the organizations our young newcomers have taken part in is the Youth Futures program.

Youth Futures is a program that offers support to low income, high risk high school students in Ottawa. Students participate in the program for seven months where they are provided the skills, support and practical experience they need to succeed in college, university and in the workplace.

This year, CCI Ottawa helped 12 young people apply for the program. Ten were accepted. This was an increase from 2018 when four CCI Ottawa Youth took part in Youth Futures.

Every Saturday during the program, the youth meet to participate in activities and programs, volunteer in the community and work alongside a mentor.

One of the programs offered is the CPR training. Daniel, a youth futures participant who worked at CCI Ottawa this past summer, said “it was my favorite and now I can save anybody’s life in case of an emergency!”

The youth also had the chance to develop better communication skills. One Saturday a student named Rami was ill, but due to inexperience, he didn’t know how to inform his mentor. Youth Futures taught him how to write an email and how to address his mentor on the phone.

Just like any other Ottawan youth, the CCI participants are responsible for keeping up with their homework and working part-time jobs during those first five months of training. Many youth also continue to participate in CCI activities.

Ana, employment advisor, says this really helps youth with time management, communication and developing confidence.

Ana has played an essential role in Youth Futures; it is her job to keep the youth motivated. “I’m always watching them from the sidelines, I’m like their cheerleader” says Ana.

Ana says the recruitment process is long. “Although it is such an exciting program, signing up online can be a difficult and daunting task for the youth.” This is why a month before the program opened, Ana helped the youth apply.

Ana also says she owes much of this years’ success to the youth themselves. “They created such a buzz,” she said. “The youth love the program and were so excited that they invited all their friends to join.”

After completing five months of training, the 10 CCI Ottawa youth participants began their two-month paid work-placement. This year students worked at places such as Saint-Vincent Hospital, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Sandy Hill Community Centre and Ottawa Community Housing.

When Daniel was asked what he would want the other youth to know about Youth Futures, he said, “Don’t take it for granted. When I first came to Canada, I thought my life would be very hard for me because I had never worked in my life, but not with Youth Futures.”

Last month, on Aug. 16, the youth participated in a special graduation ceremony at Lansdowne. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was a special guest and took the time to speak with every youth. Ana hopes the success of this year’s program will continue and there will be even more participants in the years to come.