IBM hires disadvantaged youth as part of Toronto development program

TORONTO – IBM Canada Monday said it is working with the City of Toronto to provide employment for young people who live in disadvantaged areas.

Six people from the Steeles-L’Amoureaux neighbourhood — a “priority” area for the city — will become IBM employees, working in the company’s real estate group and nearby solutions delivery centre in Markham.

The youth, aged 16 to 24, have a high-school education and will be doing order entry-type work as part of a six-month contract, according to IBM Canada president Dan Fortin. Four were placed with the company in December; the other two will be found jobs shortly.

They will also have to opportunity to learn IT skills on the job. Each of the six people will be assigned a mentor at IBM Canada – an employee who will guide their training. “The thought is really to develop skills,” said Fortin.

“These six people are going to be able to look people in the eye and say, ‘I work for IBM,’” said City of Toronto Mayor David Miller.

The city has approached a number of companies to aid in youth development projects, but IBM is the first to provide actual employment, said Gael Gilbert, the executive director of Agincourt Community Services Association, one of the agencies involved in the project.

“This community needs no end of support,” she said. “We would welcome involvement from other businesses.”

The City of Toronto’s Community Safety Plan was first organized in 2004. Employment for youth is one aspect of the plan, which also includes crisis response and youth justice programs.

Steeles-L’Amoureaux is one of 13 neighbourhoods the city has targeted for improvement. The IBM placements were co-ordinated through the Chester Le Community Corner in Steeles-L’Amoureaux. The six youths were screened and interviewed by the North West Scarborough Youth Centre.

This is the first time IBM Canada has participated in a youth employment program, said Fortin, but would consider doing it again. “What we’re looking for right now is to learn from this pilot,” he said.

IBM has also provided three PCs and a printer for the Chester Le Community Corner which area residents can use to work on their resumes and search for job prospects. IBM will also help to renovate the community centre’s basement and staff have donated children’s books, office supplies and bicycles.

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