Calgary Employer Forum

The Role of Bias When Hiring Opportunity Youth

 In Blog

Opportunity Youth are youth who are not involved in employment, education or training. They are often seen as disconnected and typically do not have work experience. For more information about Opportunity Youth, check out this previous blog post.

As you can imagine, it can be quite a challenge for a youth with no work experience to get into the workforce. Throughout the process, a youth has to approach adults in positions of power, and compete with more experienced workers. Recruiters and hiring managers may look at a resume lacking work experience and immediately set it aside. Maybe the recruiter looks at the date the candidate finished school and figures they are too young for the job. It’s easy to dismiss these candidates, when there are so many other resumes to look at.

Discrimination or bias is the act of favouring a person based on their group, rather than looking at them on an individual basis. Preconceptions can be positive or negative and are an innate part of who we are. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes we are not even aware we have. 

It’s easy to characterize certain groups. It’s part of our popular culture to criticize groups like youth.

  • Youth are entitled, video game players who lack work ethic
  • Youth don’t have time to work, they are too busy with school
  • Youth don’t need to work, they can get money from their parents
  • Youth are more interested in socializing than work
  • Hiring youth is a safety risk

Think of youth you know, are these negative stereotypes true? https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/755954#image-2

During the late teens and up, is actually a time of increasing responsibility for youth. When we look at Opportunity Youth, many do not have supportive families and need to earn a living. There are also a number of youth who are the sole earner in their families, especially in this job climate. Not all youth are pursuing post-secondary education, and they want to get into the workforce and build a career. Youth are actually very motivated to work and ready to learn from their employer how they can contribute.

The good news our biases can be unlearned. There are resources out there that can help you identify your unconscious biases and provide techniques for overcoming them. The Calgary Employer Forum is dedicated to future education on this topic and we value the participation of employers.

To ensure success of youth candidates, make sure you build a welcoming environment. Instead of looking at youth as a burden to hire, see them as a blank slate and ready to learn. Ensure you have an established safety culture and a mentor who can act as a good example for youth you hire.

For more information about hiring and managing Opportunity Youth, connect with the Calgary Employer Forum.

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