Good jobs for Canada’s young are possible

We can create good jobs by using Canada's abundant resources to actually make things.

December 16, 2014   Jerry Dias

Today’s tough economy has taught Canada’s young people an appalling lesson – work harder, but expect less.They’ve followed the right advice and gone to school, trained and accepted unpaid internships to gain valuable work experience.

Yet good jobs elude them.

Instead, they end up with low-paying, precarious jobs that make it difficult, if not impossible, to build a secure future or raise a family.

As Alastair Woods, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario noted at the Good Jobs Summit in Toronto, many people work 40 hours a week or more in unpaid internships, afraid to say anything for fear they’ll never work in that field again.


This is a heart-breaking situation we’ve created for our children and it just isn’t good enough. We can and must do better.
The summit, put together by Unifor, Ryerson University, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, explored several issues, including:

• how to turn low income, precarious jobs into good jobs;
• where the jobs will come from; and
• how young workers and students can succeed in Canada’s difficult labour market.

This national dialogue heard from a diverse group that included students and people from business, labour, community organizations, and some political leaders. All agreed good jobs are possible.

By working together, industry, government, labour and communities can develop sustainable plans and make strategic investments.
One good example is the New Brunswick forestry plan, which promises more Crown land and greater protection for wildlife zones. This merges the interests of industry, Aboriginal communities and environmental groups. Released in March, it was followed by an announcement of a $513 million investment by JD Irving.

Unifor, working with industry and government, had long pushed for such a plan. Now, a similar plan for the forestry industry is needed across the country. We can create good jobs by using Canada’s abundant resources to actually make things.

More than 1,000 delegates at the Good Jobs Summit talked about similar ideas for three days in public forums and smaller workshops. There were repeated calls for sector councils and an industrial strategy that could reinvigorate manufacturing.

Come together
Certainly there are many issues. Labour, business, government and young people must find the solutions. Such a diverse group of stakeholders will not see eye-to-eye on every difficult issue, but they should not be afraid to disagree. What’s most important is a shared understanding of the complexities that are involved and a willingness to work together.

Of course, it will take more than good intentions and impassioned speeches. Real success comes through the relationships forged and the potential they create. One project that emerged from the summit as a result of this potential is a “Roundtable on Good Jobs.”

Joining me on the roundtable will be J.D. Irving co-CEO Jim Irving, Canadian Federation of Students national chairperson Jessica McCormick, former Toronto mayor and World Wildlife Fund Canada CEO David Miller and Metro Vancouver Alliance Organizer Deborah Littman.

Our job will be to develop strategies and policies that create the good jobs Canada needs.

There are some very talented people on the roundtable. Their best efforts are needed to get the job done.

Jerry Dias is the national president of Unifor, Canada’s largest union in the private sector with more than 300,000 members.