As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, its impact is taking a toll on career and economic opportunities, and mental health and wellbeing for youth. Since the 2020 winter break, schools in southern Ontario have remained closed for in-person learning until February 10, 2021. Students have been learning remotely for a while now. This has posed challenges for both teachers and students to complete curriculum and engage in effective learning. Some youth are juggling multiple jobs and learning or navigating new ways in which they can transition to post-secondary education.
“With my learning I don’t feel as motivated, I would log in to my class but being home there are so many distractions. I find myself not being 100% tuned in,” said Tremar Brown, Club Staff member. Since the pandemic, Brown has been working multiple jobs and keeping up with his learning.
Statistics Canada’s Economic Insights article, “School Closures and the Online Preparedness of Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” revealed some of the obstacles children and youth are facing such as organization, self-regulation, motivation, and grasping learning material when teachers are not physically present. "When you’re at home, the teacher gives you more work and all of the teachers give the same work load,” said Tremar Brown.
Brown has kept himself busy through work where he has had safe interactions with others, reading books and playing video games. Brown works with Dovecourt Club to help facilitate youth programs and community initiatives.
“There’s only so much that can be done virtually,” said Brown. “I enjoy working with youth a lot because being one myself– these are crucial years and you are molded into who you are. We have virtual programs but I don’t feel the youth aren’t as engaged as they were before.”
As we navigate significant life events, prioritizing your mental health is undoubtedly important. It is beneficial to express how you feel which gives others a chance to help guide you through challenges. Consider talking to a family member, friend or any trusted person you feel comfortable with, or seek confidential counseling services:
|Kids Help Phone||This 24/7 confidential online and telephone counselling service is led by volunteers and has expanded its mandate to include former youth in care of any age.||T: 1-800-668-6868
|First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line (24 Hours)||24/7 telephone counseling is available in English, French and upon request in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.||T: 1-855-242-3310|
|Good2Talk||Free, professional and confidential counseling support for post-secondary students in Ontario.||T: 1-866-925-5454|
|Created for youth who are a part of the LGBT community, this telephone, text and chat service is available from Sunday to Friday 4:30pm-9:30pm.||T: 1-800-268-9688
|Canada’s primary source of information for government, community based, non-clinical and social services.||W: https://211.ca/|
Are you a recent graduate looking to enter the work force? There’s plenty of ways to prepare for your future. For example:
Besides LinkedIn and Indeed, Job Bank is Canada’s national employment service (Website and app) and an excellent resource for finding opportunities.
Stand out from candidates by taking free courses at Coursera. This platform offers courses that can be completed in 8 hours with an option to obtain a certificate.
Post COVID-19 education and employment projections appear grim for the population least susceptible to the virus. In August 2020, the International Labour Organization published a global report, Youth & COVID-19: Impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental health well-being capturing the effects of COVID-19 on youth.
The report revealed that 65% of youth claimed to have learned less since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Lack of access to technological tools, resources, and disruptive environment were some of the contributing factors. As one of many shifts, online learning undoubtedly highlighted socio-economic divides in access to digital tools in regions where not all youth had access to online learning or training according to report findings.
Youth between the ages, 13 to 19, are living their most transformative educational years: graduating high school, applying for post-secondary education, graduate studies or moving out and trying to become financially independent. A smooth succession between the phases could guarantee strong career prospects and long-term financial stability. This would lay a strong foundation for pivotal events like buying a house, starting a business, etc. Unfortunately, not only are educational halts impacting youth but industries that are comprised mostly of youth such as clerical services, sales, and crafts were among the first to be shut down or were halted. With educational challenges and lack of employment, youth are falling behind which will impact their financial stability and careers in the long run.
In addition to the financial loss, insecurity and delays in workforce, mental health are areas impacted for youth. According to the report, young people whose education or work was halted or stopped altogether were twice as likely to be affected by anxiety or depression. The effects of enduring mental health challenges are long-term. Financial projections can go far but the challenges and impact of mental health are harder to quantify.
Nearly 38% of youth, globally, are uncertain about their future career prospects; 16% are fearful. This uncertainty and fear could threaten to delay recovery in education and employment opportunities according to the report’s authors.
This recovery isn’t just domestic as every country is facing its own unique set of challenges. This means different strategies as well: enforcing preventive COVID-19 actions in schools (Afghanistan), establishing it’s protocols for handling illnesses (Egypt, Russia, Belarus), using infrastructure and human resources to address the spread of COVID-19 in community (Liberia and Sierra Leone) according to the World Bank Group. So what needs to be done to support youth? According to the authors, this include governmental investments in jobs and training, social protection, unemployment insurance benefits, stronger efforts to boost the quality of online and distance learning and mental health. Services and psychosocial support are needed for younger generations. These measures would be critical in supporting younger youth, youth living in lower income countries and women who can dangerously fall behind in career and educational prospects.
Youth are complying with COVID-19 preventative measures. According to the report, their social activism has contributed to alleviating the economic and social effects of COVID-19 through complying with government measures, volunteering, and charitable giving. Supporting youth would accelerate COVID-19 recovery and strengthen existing systems. It’s a win-win for everyone.