Mission Matters

Expert insights into the latest news, research and conversations that affect our mission: to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.

Jennifer Holmes Weier, President and CEO

Building a brighter future for young people

January 5 2023

Jennifer Holmes Weier
President and CEO, JA Central Ontario

Toronto is a vibrant world city, made truly unique by the many communities and cultures that bring it to life every day. It’s one of the regions we serve here at JA Central Ontario, and an important part of our network of young people, volunteers, partners, and donors. It’s also my home, and a place I feel deeply and gratefully connected to.

The Toronto Foundation’s recent Social Capital Study gives a thought-provoking insight into the lives of Torontonians in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings impact all of us who live in, work in, and serve the city – and the results are especially sobering for those of us working in youth-focused charities.

Of all the clear and purposeful recommendations for donors, organizations, and policy makers, I am drawn to one recommendation that chimes the loudest:

“Support young adults as they seek to establish careers and families in an ever more challenging world” (p79).

Youth across the city “(and in Canada as a whole) consistently score lower on a variety of measures of wellbeing” (p66). Even prior to the pandemic, young people (especially young women) report declining mental health. We also know that young people have been disproportionately affected by learning losses and unemployment as a result of the pandemic. It’s also no surprise that the changing world of work will have a huge impact on youth as they join the workforce. They will need a whole host of creative, non-traditional workplace skills to thrive – skills they need support in developing.

Students at JA event

Photo by Jesús Maza

Here at JA Central Ontario, we want to make sure young people have the best possible start in this challenging environment. But what does that really mean for youth in our community?

Creating a generation of optimism

At JA globally, we are seeding optimism – for hope, opportunity and growth. Our work is based on the theory of self-efficacy, otherwise known as self-belief or self-leadership. We know that young people who believe they can succeed are much more likely to do so. Young people develop self-efficacy by learning practical skills, meeting supportive role models, and practicing a positive mindset. Without this support – without self-confidence, community connections and positive mental health – the next generation won’t be in the position to build the future they want, and that they deserve.

JA Central Ontario supports youth through three focus areas, each one tailored to the changing needs of young people today.

  • In the face of an impending recession and the rising cost of living, JA experiences teach the practical skills youth need for life-long financial health: from budgeting to saving, investing and the mindset to deal with financial uncertainty.
  • The impact of COVID-19 and the changing world of work make for a challenging landscape for those entering the working world. JA work readiness experiences empower students with everything they need to confidently navigate their path: from creating the perfect resumé and job interview prep, to exploring unfamiliar job markets and building industry connections.
  • After the past couple of years, young people are ready to make some big, social and structural changes. Entrepreneurship not only accelerates economic growth, it offers a grass-roots path for real change. JA Central Ontario's entrepreneurship experiences build the business knowledge, social connections and self-leadership students need to take the plunge and start their own revolution.

Students at JA event

Photo by Jesús Maza

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing how we can come together as a community to bring these skills to life and build a bright future for young people in our region. Working together, with a new generation leading us forward, we will support youth as they strengthen and invigorate dynamic communities, no matter what the future holds.