‘Absolutely devastated for the youth’: Job program for at-risk youth cancelled in Cowichan Valley

'Absolutely devastated for the youth': Job program for at-risk youth cancelled in Cowichan Valley

Zoe Lauckner is a polished picture of success now, but will never forget being the troubled Cowichan teen who was headed for a bleak future.

“I grew up as somebody who would have been considered an at-risk or vulnerable youth, and I was really lucky. You know, having dropped out of high school, that local business owners in this Cowichan Valley saw my value as a young person and gave me a job which changed my life,” Lauckner told CHEK News on Wednesday.

Now the executive director of Cowichan Valley Youth Services (CVYS), Lauckner was devastated to learn the chance she got has just been lost for 43 young people who were waiting to enter the Youth Employment Mentorship Program that CVYS operates.

“We were devastated, absolutely devastated, for the youth in the community,” said Lauckner. “So what we’re losing here is the opportunity for our young people to completely change the trajectory of their life and start their adulthood in a really positive way.”

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In an email dated June 29, Service Canada informed Cowichan Valley Youth Services that their federal funding had been cut, ending a 20-year run for the job program that over 400 young people learned skills and got support to start employment.

“Life skills, employment skills, and actually provide them with payment to take these programs, get certificates and gain experience necessary to really enter the workforce. So often youth who would come to our program, their families were more or less already on the street, had struggled to receive employment,” said Lauckner.

Small businesses in Cowichan say the loss is a blow for them as well.

“When I’m communicating with other employers in town, there’s still that struggle with finding employees and long term employees,” said Matt Huotari, owner of Duncan’s Panago Pizza.

Huotari hired from the Youth Mentorship and Employment Program and said the mentorship made it a great fit.

“The facilitators were amazing at pulling that confidence out of them and then once they were here, I think we were able to help as well,” he said.

So Lauckner is urging the federal government to reconsider pulling the employment program’s funding, knowing first hand what a difference being given a chance can make.

SEE ALSO: ‘With heavy hearts’: Big Brother Big Sisters Cowichan Valley announces closure

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