We recently caught up with Timothy Lang, After the Bell of Youth Employment Services. YES is a job placement and training non-profit charity program based right here in Toronto.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Based in Toronto, Youth Employment Services (YES) is the Canadian youth employment training, programming, and job placement leader, serving tens of thousands of youth annually, with a close to 90% success rate. For every $1 dollar of funding, our efforts have been shown to give back roughly $3 to the economy in terms of new wages, tax revenues, a reduction on social services, and much more. Part of our service offering is to also train and replicate our successful practices with partners and employment agencies across Canada, creating a stronger nation and changing lives forever.
YES has over 25 free employment counselling, training, and placement programs, including programming for youth with mental health issues, young entrepreneurs, ‘Future of Work’ programs, mentorship programs, trades programs, and new digital literacy and cloud computing programs. Most recently, we launched a new curriculum, titled ‘Rebuilding Mental Health and Empowerment Curriculum’, that aims to balance mental health and cognitive behavioural therapy education and skills development with advocacy, to support Canadian youth that are experiencing mental health issues as they seek and obtain employment.
What problem does it aim to solve?
At YES, our aim is to empower disadvantaged and vulnerable youth to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. In particular, we want to equip Canadian youth to seek, obtain, and retain employment. Our belief is that employment is empowerment, and really the cornerstone of safe and healthy communities. Through our work, we hope to help build prosperity, and create a stronger society in Canada.
When did you start/join it?
YES was created in 1968 and was Canada’s first youth employment services provider, training other organizations in Canada and around the world. I joined YES as President & CEO in 2015 and am so proud of our passionate team who have helped us double in size since then, while also substantially increasing the number of youth served over the last six years.
What made you want to get involved?
Coming from the private sector, from organizations like Xerox and Energy Savings Income Fund, I was proud of my ability to inspire and motivate organizations to achieve record growth. When I was approached by YES, I was both excited and passionate about the idea of leveraging my skills to do good work, and more importantly, to help hundreds of thousands of youth – many of whom are disadvantaged. I wanted, and still want to, create an even stronger organization that can truly change Canadians’ lives. Every day, I feel an immense sense of pride around the work the entire YES team does to innovate our approach to supporting youth employment in Canada, and to ultimately help our clients. Because of the life skills training and job placement services we offer, we’ve been able to help many youth transition from feelings of despair to real hope and self-confidence, and it’s such a rewarding process to watch them go through that journey.
What was the situation like when you started?
Having been an organizational turnaround expert, I’m always ready to help reorganize and inspire whichever company I might be engaged with to improve. When I joined YES, I was so lucky to already have a solid foundation, as well as a great leadership team. Building on this strength alongside a passionate staff and Board of Directors who were excited about new changes and upward momentum, I’m proud that YES has continued to grow substantially, which ultimately means that we’re able to serve even more youth in need.
How has it changed since?
I hinted at the significant growth YES has seen since I joined the team, including that we’ve doubled our revenue – again, meaning that we’re able to serve several thousands more youth each year. We’ve also expanded our mental health and entrepreneurial programming (to include resources like the Rebuilding Mental Health and Empowerment Curriculum I mentioned before), and developed new mentorship, digital literacy, trades, and cloud computing programs that the people we work with can tap into. Our Yes On Demand training online program, for instance, was something that allowed us to continue seamlessly serving youth over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What more needs to be done?
YES has accomplished a great deal with an extremely high success rate, but there’s always more that can be done to reach youth and help make an impact on their lives. We’re constantly seeking partners who want to get behind our mission and help support YES programming, wraparound supports, and so much more. Our incredible donors have helped in times of need, supplying things like food, technology, transportation, and more, which has given even the most disadvantaged youth the opportunity to leverage the services we offer at YES and change the course of their lives.
With the onset of COVID-19, we saw an increase in youth impacted by mental health due to social isolation, unforeseen job loss, and the volatility of the job market. As a critical response, we launched the Rebuilding Mental Health and Empowerment Curriculum to provide employment specialists with the tools they need to adequately support their current staff, and the staff of tomorrow.
How can our readers help?
Despite youth unemployment being double the national average, and YES being a free service that helps identify employment opportunities for our clients, there are still tens of thousands of youth who are not aware of us and the work that we do. Spreading the word among youth, especially those that are in search of work, is a fairly simple act that each of us can do, yet can have such a big impact on their lives. And of course, any financial support is also greatly appreciated as the impact of our donors on youth is immediate and long-lasting.
Do you have any events coming up?
We do! We have some events coming up in September and regularly hold conferences and donor events. Feel free to stay up to date on YES-related news and events, here: https://www.yes.on.ca/news/
Where can we follow you?
YES website: www.yes.on.ca
Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/YouthEmploymentServices
Twitter | https://twitter.com/yestoronto
Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/yes.to/
LinkedIn | https://www.linkedin.com/company/youth-employment-services/mycompany/
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
We are very proud of what we do as a charity, and how immediate our impact can be. When I think of other impactful charities, Pathways to Education comes to mind. Both YES and Pathways do incredible work to empower our youth – while YES helps youth find employment, and related training or education, Pathways works hard to drive higher education levels, which is the proven and most effective way to secure great employment. Browsing through the Toronto Guardian’s ‘Charitable Choices’ series, I’m taking note of all of the wonderful charities, like ‘Bleed the North’, that, like YES, are taking it upon themselves to tackle potentially sensitive, yet important societal problems.