Barbara Fish Counselling Services ... helping your life work

The Future of Twentysomethings

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 10, Issue 11

November 2014

Much has been written about the obstacles facing youth today. Toronto's youth unemployment rate is at 18.1%. Student summer employment figures have been down for 6 years. Student debt is, on average, around $25,000. Underemployment is evident everywhere where college and university graduates are selling t-shirts, flipping burgers and brewing coffee for minimum wage and where they are at the mercy of managers who treat them as expendable and easily replaceable. Some corporate employers are demanding 3 years experience for an entry-level position. Many unpaid internships have exploited the desperation of young people eager to gain any kind of work experience. Blaming and finger-pointing have pitted government, industry and learning institutions against each other over an apparent skills gap, at the expense of the young people who are being cheated out of opportunities to learn, grow and develop. The old adages of working hard to reach one's goals don't seem to apply the way they used to and it all seems terribly unfair.

There is no doubt that this is a very difficult time for many of our youth. While some have been able to create jobs for themselves with start-up ventures that have been successful, and some have had positive internship experiences that have led to permanent jobs, many of them feel discouraged and frustrated with the way things have turned out for them. Despite working hard to put themselves through college or university, they feel disappointed and disillusioned that they are unable to find full-time and meaningful employment to pay off the debt they have accrued and to get on with their lives. They crave financial and physical independence from their families but many cannot afford it. Many feel trapped by circumstances beyond their control and fear a future of chronic underemployment.

Something has to be done and there are some obvious things that need to be looked at. Let's start a conversation about:

  1. Lowering tuition costs
  2. Reinstating interest-free student loans
  3. Raising the minimum wage to above the poverty line so that students and others are not forced into working one, two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet.
  4. Creating more affordable housing
  5. Eliminating unpaid internships
  6. Ensuring a learning component in paid internships
  7. Educating industry to let them know that a liberal arts degree produces graduates who can think analytically, solve complex problems, communicate effectively, and collaborate readily with others on a team.
  8. Creating more full-time, permanent jobs. I would love to hear what you think about this situation. Please write with your ideas.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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For more information, or to book an appointment at her Toronto office,
please contact Barbara by telephone at 416-498-1352 or by email at