About Saint Mary's

Saint Mary's employment program for at-risk youth receives federal funding

2 March, 2017

A Saint Mary’s program designed to help at-risk youth develop better employability skills has received over $480,000 in funding from the Government of Canada.

“The Government of Canada is proud to support Saint Mary’s University’s project to provide employability skill training and work placements for at-risk youth in Nova Scotia. Our government is committed to addressing the broad range of labour market challenges facing youth, including at-risk youth and investing in Saint Mary’s University’s OPtions program is an excellent step in that direction. This project will help at-risk youth find meaningful work experience in their areas of interest, preparing them for future success,” said Andy Fillmore, Member of Parliament for Halifax.

The OPtions (Overcoming Poverty) Youth Program works with at-risk youth through employability skill training and work term placements. The program partners with local businesses to offer young Nova Scotians opportunities to develop their career skills through mentorship, entrepreneurship training, and on the job training.

“A clear and pervasive commitment to social responsibility enriches the educational  experience of our students, and contributes significantly to their development as active citizens,” said Saint Mary’s President, Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. “At Saint Mary’s, we recognize both the opportunities and challenges facing our community. Through programs like OPtions Youth, we help our community grow stronger by giving youth the tools and skills they need to fuel their own success.”

“This program is providing phenomenal opportunities for at-risk youth to build skills, confidence and connections,” said Joanne Bernard, Minister of Community Services. “We need the energy, innovation and diversity young people bring to our workplaces and we need to give vulnerable youth every chance to reach their full potential. Providing opportunities like these to gain skills and work experience will be life changing for them.”

The OPtions program is divided into three phases:

  1. The Personal Development phase, where participants will be equipped with essential life skills from goal setting to presentation, business and leadership skills.
  2. The Professional Development phase, where participants begin to understand essential professional skills such as communication, networking and interviewing techniques. They will also, as a group develop and launch a social enterprise as a component of this phase.
  3. The Work Experience phase, where participants will be placed in career-related job experience for 12 weeks.

"I valued the OPtions program for many reasons. Although I am from a good home, I had many setbacks that concerned my parents. My mom, who used to be an employment counselor suggested OPtions to me. What I took from the program was self-reflection, perspective and compassion. Everyone struggles, and when you do, you have support. In my case, the OPtions program was there for me," Martha Mutale, OPtions participant.

The OPtions Youth program is run by the Sobey Business Development Centre in partnership with Enactus Saint Mary’s.