Sask. leads country in percentage of teens not working or in school

A new study from Statistics Canada shows Saskatchewan leads the nation in teenagers who aren't employed or in education or training.

Statistics Canada says Sask. teens have higher risk of unemployment, depression as adults

Saskatchewan led the country in a Statistics Canada survey of teens who weren't in school or employed. (Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters)

A new study from Statistics Canada shows Saskatchewan leads the nation in teenagers who aren't employed or in education or training.

Using data from the national Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada found 8.5 per cent of teens aged 15 to 19 years old were not in school and did not have a job in 2016.

At 8.5 per cent, this province's rate is the highest in the country, far above Ontario, which has a rate of 5.2 per cent. The national rate is 6.3 per cent.

The report said teens that fall into the category will have lower rates of education and less educational experience than their peers.

It also raises concerns that teens who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) can fall through the cracks.

"(They) may be experiencing difficulties making the transition from school to the labour market and could also be at a higher risk of social exclusion and depression," reads the report.
Tammy Krueckl works with youth in Saskatoon to teach them skills transferable to the workplace through art. These include showing up on time, calling ahead if they're late, and accountability skills.

Youth worker echoes concerns

Tammy Krueckl, who works with youth as part of a community art initiative, echoed the concerns raised in the report.

"Anxiety and depression seem to be at the forefront for a lot of young people transitioning from being a teenager to early adulthood," she said.

When teens come to the drop-in centre, or enrol in Saskatoon's Community Youth Arts Programming, they often struggle with addiction.  

One program employs youth for a nine-month term, during which they paint murals and execute art projects across the city.

Many of the young people at the centre start out with weak skills, or very few skills that might be useful in the workforce.

"Enabling people to use art as their tool to learn some skills and confidence and self-esteem goes a long way to helping them feel they can be part of society or part of the workforce," said Krueckl.

Younger teens at greatest risk

According to the report, younger teens aged 15 to 16 are of greatest concern because they most likely have not obtained their high school diploma. The study found 3.8 per cent of teens in that age range in Saskatchewan were not in the education system or employed.

While the study does not break down the numbers further, graduation rates among Indigenous students has been a concern in the province for years.

In 2016, high school graduation rates among First Nations students sat at 40 per cent, considerably lower than the provincial average of 70 per cent.

The study did not include youth who lived on reserves.

Mentorship helps youth find confidence

There are some programs in place to help teens avoid becoming part of the 8.5 per cent unemployed, unenrolled youth.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Saskatoon serves many at-risk youth, and connects them to mentors. Executive director Kim Megyesi said the demographics of the teens they help are varied.

"It's a good split across socio-economic backgrounds, and also of varied ethnicity," said Megyesi.

Megyesi and her group attempt to steer youth in a positive direction through healthy relationships based around mentorship.

"They can create a greater sense of confidence, and when you have confidence, you have a greater sense of belonging, self-esteem, social skills."

Nationally, the study found young women were slightly more likely to be enrolled in school, while young men were more likely to have entered the work force.

The study did not include youth who lived on reserves.