Stories to Inspire

For youth in care, achieving employment success can be difficult, because they often have barriers to job success that other young people do not.

Now, young people who are currently in care or who have recently left the care of Child and Family Services in Western Manitoba will have more support to reach their workforce goals.

CFS of Western, in partnership with the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and RBC, has launched a two-year pilot program called Youth Works to help youth in care or from care who are 16 to 29 to find  employment, along with skills training and career mentorships.

At the end of January, a celebration was held in Brandon at CFS of Western’s Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre to launch the project.

About 50 people attended, including Peggy Hornell, Chief Operating Officer of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada (CAFC), Dave McGregor, CEO of CFS of Western.

Pictured at the Youth Works launch: Terry Burgess, RBC regional vice-president, Western Man., Peggy Hornell, CEO, The Children’s Aid Foundation of  Canada, Glenn Crook, RBC vice-president, commercial/financial services, Tristan Norton, CFS of Western’s youth care employment specialist, Marie Wotton, supervisor, CFS of Western Family and Community Development Centre; Dave McGregor, CEO CFS of Western.

Currently, about 20 young persons are being supported by the program, but it is meant to assist up to 100 over the course of the pilot.

Norton said Youth Works will fill a need in the community.

“I think [it’s crucial] because a lot of young people in care, or who have been in care, face a lot of challenges that other youth don’t have.

“If we can give them a little extra support, when they do age out of care, they are not going to say, ‘Ok, now I’m going to go on social assistance.’”

One of Norton’s roles is to help the youths develop a work ethic.

“They need that work ethic where they are sticking with it for the long term.”

McGregor said the program will be especially helpful for young people who are approaching adulthood and who are aging out of care.

“Living apart from their family, dealing with needs and vulnerabilities that contributed to their coming into care, and experiencing a lack of support to access opportunities that most kids take for granted, are just a few of the extra barriers that these young adults face. The Youth Works program will help mitigate some of those added obstacles.”

The   program has already helped numerous young people in the Westman area find work, said Norton.

Youth have found jobs at Brandon restaurants, Maple Leaf Foods and call centres, among other places.

They can also work with Norton on other aspects of career development, including resume writing and career mentoring.

Marie Wotton, supervisor, CFS Western Family and Community Development Centre, points out that many of these teens are still in school, which should be their priority, so the jobs are part-time for now.

“We are working with them and telling them if they get a part-time job, we don’t want them to make work a priority and just drop out of school,” she said. It’s extremely important that the young people finish high school, Wotton added.

One of the main challenges they have had thus far, says Wotton, is with getting the word out. So far, all of the students in the program have come through referrals, although they can self-refer.

Wotton and Norton hope that by attending a job fair in March that reaches thousands of Brandon high school students, they can let more potential youth in care know about Youth Works.

As well, they plan on letting others in the Westman area know about the program.

“We have been working with other authorities,” said Wotton. “We know there is a need.”

She said while most of the referrals so far have been younger teens, ages 16-19, “going forward, we know there are probably a lot of 21-29-year-olds who have been in care in the community at some point, but we need to get the message to them.”

The program, which began in September 2017 in locations across Canada, has also launched in Fredericton, Richmond, B.C., and Toronto.

Hornell of the CAFC, said across the country, youth in care and from care face many obstacles as they move toward independence.

“Helping young people in and from the child welfare system find stability in their lives is an important priority for us at the Foundation.”

Contact Tristan Norton at 204-573-3252 or visit for more info.