Finding a job as a young person is a challenge, especially considering the part time labour market has been most impacted by unemployment with the national average sitting at 5.8% as of October, 2022. CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals (CEE) is a non-profit organization located in Scarborough which offers Black youth in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) support and resources to foster financial prosperity, as well as skill sets to employ fully autonomous Canadian citizens.
Executive Director, Agapi Gessesse, spoke with Toronto Guardian about the mission representatives of CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals offer Black youth in the GTA. Gessessse has dedicated her entire career to fostering social impact capable of transforming the lives of the Black community. Her vision sees the potential to “create an equitable ecosystem [for Black families]” in collaboration with the Canadian government which truly promotes change. In their efforts to cultivate “financially prosperous” individuals, CEE considers “gaps in the labour market in leading industries including: information technology, trades, entertainment, finance, hospitality and social services, providing free programming for youth ages 14 and up”.
CEE offers a unique service model focusing on a person-centred and trauma-informed approach, while maintaining cultural relevance. Gessesse highlights, “the person-centred approach provides individuals with support around food security, housing security, mental health, child care and things of that nature”. In this respect, CEE facilitates a focus on “life stabilization”, offering members the option to connect with social workers to develop a feasible “plan for stabilization”. The trauma-informed approach sees CEE representatives call attention to the various forms of trauma compounded by life experiences impacting the Black community. Understanding the impact of this trauma is essential for finding effective solutions which reduce the collective trauma felt by Black youth and their families; the psychotherapists at CEE work with young people in need of support in order to establish healthy healing models. Furthermore, CEE operates cognizant of the African proverb “ubuntu” which means, “I am because you are”, the organization fuses Black culture into their model of care and a strong presence of Black representation reflected in their staff. Gessesse offers, “the cohorts work together to achieve success. If one member is excelling then all of the cohort excels, yet, if a member is having challenges then the group waits for that member to catch up and they progress as a team. This is the secret sauce that makes CEE unique”. Gessesse has found that cultural relatability pertaining to members and staff, has encouraged more success with members as they develop autonomy, emotional intelligence and healthy connections through prosocial behaviours modelled by their Black mentors; members ultimately feel seen and heard.
CEE hosts a wide array of free career advancement options, wherein participants may graduate with a certification in any number of programs. There are currently over 20 programs being offered in cycles throughout the year, some of which are: CEE Tech (Intro to digital technology) – a free hands on training, wherein participants earn a certificate in technical web design, 3D world and video game basics, social media management, etc. Also included in this program is career coaching and an internship. Cyber Security offers Black youth interested in pursuing a career in the ever growing tech industry, the opportunity to develop skills in Digital Security Technology. Members graduate this program fully equipped to work as a security professional in the cyber security domain. While those interested in pursuing a career in finance and insurance have the option to get certified in the 24 week Insurance Underwriting Program. Zurich Canada offers candidates 12 weeks of software training and skills development coupled with a 12 week paid internship.
CEE has recently expanded services to Montreal, Quebec, wherein they run programs in the entertainment sector. Gessesse notes, “we have plans over the next year to expand to other provinces”. If you are looking to get in contact with representatives of CEE, reach out via their socials: Instagram, LinkedIn, or their website. CEE is working to reduce the collective trauma of the Black community starting with the youth and their families, fostering autonomous, educated, emotionally intelligent and financially literate young people.