The federal government announced it will bankroll a 13-week job skills training program for 154 London youth, at a cost of $1.3 million, as part of Canada's youth employment strategy. 

"Everybody needs a start" - Peter Fragiskatos

The youth will be given the training through the Skills Link program, which is run by Leads Employment Services, a London-based not for profit employment and skills development agency that does work across Southwestern Ontario. 

The 154 youth, which includes an equal number of young men and young women, will be placed in a variety of jobs, including sales, services, hospitality, retail and administration in order to give them new skills and hands-on experience. 

"We can't have a strong thriving middle class unless our young people are supported," said Peter Fragiskatos, the Liberal MP for London North Centre. "Particularly those who face significant barriers to employment." 

Those who participate in the program will be taken from social backgrounds that can sometimes impede full employment for youth, including high school drop outs, single parents, Indigenous youth, young people with disabilities, youth living in rural or remote areas, and newcomers.

"Everybody needs a start," Fragiskatos said. "A step to get to the next step."

It's those kind of connections that gave Sarah Verdon a leg up for a position at a London Tim Horton's, her first job. 

"All I needed was to have someone open the door to gain that employment," she said. "Most companies won't hire you if you don't have experience and in order for you to have the experience you need someone to open the door. At Leads, they sort of force the door open."