In May 2020, NPower Canada along with seven other youth-focused organizations formed a consortium to help address the digital divide that exists between the lowest and highest quartile of Canadians.

These organizations include Employment and Social Development Canada, including the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity, Indspire, MENTOR Canada, National Association of Friendship Centres, Opportunity for All Youth, Pathways to Education and Tamarack Institute.

The group came together to collaborate on collective innovation, knowledge sharing and other emerging challenges faced by Canadians.

Below is the Executive Summary of the results of this collaboration. You can download the complete series of essays as a pdf in English or French from these links..

“By collectively investing in the skills and competency development of youth living in low-income communities, Canada will create a dynamic and adaptable workforce that will contribute to a robust

economic recovery and long-term growth.”

~ Towards Inclusive Growth: Addressing the Digital Divide through Skills and Training, Pathways to Education

According to Statistics Canada, only 62 per cent of Canadians in the lowest income quartile have access to the Internet, compared to 95 per cent of those in the highest quartile. Over the course of the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide for youth across Canada. And no group has been more impacted by this uneven distribution of access to information and communication technology, than youth living in low-income communities. But as the pandemic continues to isolate people and lockdown communities, how do we bridge this digital divide for youth and get them access to the tools, training, resources and support they need to reach their full potential and contribute to Canada’s economic recovery?

In May 2020, a consortium of eight youth-focused organizations, supported by Employment and Social Development Canada, including the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity, Indspire, MENTOR Canada, NPower Canada, National Association of Friendship Centres, Opportunity for All Youth, Pathways to Education and Tamarack Institute came together to collaborate and explore opportunities for collective innovation and knowledge sharing on emerging challenges and best practices.  The impact of COVID-19 on youth became a focus and a Working Group was formed in September 2020 to discuss solutions to bridge the growing digital divide and how to raise awareness of this important issue.

The result of this collaboration is this series of essays that identify the multi-facets of the digital divide that Canadian youth are currently facing, and how these barriers are affecting their ability to stay engaged in education, employment, and their community. The importance of mentoring, the need for improved access to digital skills training and employment, and ensuring youth have a voice in designing solutions to bridge the digital divide, are consistent themes throughout each of the five essays.

Improved Access to Digital Skills Training and Employment

Today, youth also face multiple obstacles in their pursuit of careers in technology. NPower Canada recently invited their program graduates to join a focus group where youth could share their experiences and suggestions. Financial barriers were one of the primary obstacles identified by participants, some of which included the cost of Internet services, computer hardware and software that could be prohibitively expensive. It was also noted that educational institutions and guidance counsellors failed to emphasize the importance of digital skills and are not doing enough to make students aware of all the options available to them when it comes to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This lack of information about the diversity of career options, coupled with a lack of female STEM representation and mentorship opportunities, are also contributing to the digital divide, and creating additional barriers for youth in their pursuit of training, education and employment.