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United Way Blog

Overcoming Barriers to Youth Employment

Gaining employment in a turbulent economy is challenging. For refugees struggling to find their financial footing, that challenge is multiplied. That’s what Taniel Taneilian was facing when he fled war-torn Syria to start a new life in Toronto.

In 2014, Taniel and his family were forced out of their hometown in Kessab by rebel forces opposing the Syrian government. As the rebellion worsened, Taniel decided to seek a better future. With support from his parents, and sponsorship assistance from a family friend in Toronto, Taniel and his older brother left Syria for a fresh start.

Although Taniel arrived in Canada with a background in IT, finding work proved difficult. He struggled to find his way, working as a laborer and relying on family for financial help. Taniel had the determination and skills to succeed—he just needed an opportunity.

Enter United Way Toronto & York Region’s Career Navigator program. Career Navigator is an education-to-employment program that helps young people facing barriers find jobs and achieve financial stability by offering job training, paid internships and social support systems, all of which help them secure the credentials and experience required for in-demand jobs.

Thanks to Career Navigator, Taniel was able to build on the skill set he acquired in Syria. Now a graduate of the program, Taniel is working full-time for Accenture as a software engineering associate. “Joining the Career Navigator program was a life-changing decision,” said Taniel. “It’s been a bridge to opportunities I didn’t think were possible.”

United Way is improving access to critical social services that help with basic needs like employment. In 2016 alone, more than 37,000 people throughout Toronto received employment counseling, training and certification, mentorship, and networking opportunities that helped them build skills, find jobs and excel during times of transition.

For young people like Taniel, that kind of support is priceless.

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