About 50 young people who face challenges finding a job will now be able to get help from the Cape Breton YMCA.

The organization has been awarded $644,543 in federal funding for its Youth Skills Link project. Cape Breton YMCA CEO Andre Gallant said the program is for anyone between the ages of 16 and 29 who has an employment barrier.

"It could be a single mom who never had the chance to finish high school, therefore she couldn't advance her career," he said. "It could be somebody with a disability that has faced some systemic barriers. It could be someone from a rural community that doesn't have the same kind of access to training and programs."

Gallant said the program includes personal reflection and skills training, such as customer service. It also pays a participant's wages for 12 weeks while they gain work experience with a local employer.

3 years of funding

Gallant said having three years of funding allows the YMCA to build ongoing relationships with employers.

"They know to keep an opportunity standing by for our next intake," he said. 

Youth Skills will accept six groups of eight participants over the life of the project.

"There is an interview process to make sure they meet some of the basic skill requirements," Gallant said.

"They do work out because we do spend that front-end time with the participant to find out what their interests and skills are, both short term and long term, and then we try to put them in a work environment that they like."

Permanent work

The YMCA offered a similar program a few years ago. Gallant said the YMCA did some short-term followup and was pleased with the results.

Some participants looked at going back to school earn to a certificate, diploma or degree. In other cases they continued working.

"In great situations the employer that hosted will offer a permanent job after the program ends. So we've had a few of those successes."