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Young males hit hard by unemployment

Sarah Palin can see Alaska from her window. This is what I see. Young men. Not working.

Sarah Palin can see Alaska from her window. This is what I see. Young men. Not working.

Unemployment for 15- to 24-year-old Calgary males is 17.3 per cent. At the beginning of July, they were the worst hit group in Alberta. New labour figures are out Friday and they are unlikely to change a harsh fact. The mighty have fallen. Young men are at home, puttering.

Who are they? There’s the student across the alley. Home from the University of Lethbridge, he’s been hammering away in the garage. Last year, he worked construction. This year, no such luck. So he’s building small projects, including a bike jump for us.

His mom comes to check. Has the job with an oil company worked out? No, he says, it doesn’t want to train someone going back to school.

At the beginning of summer, young men faced unemployment five points higher than females. The guys are squirming: Parents and girlfriends are on their collective cases. A government spokesperson tells me there’s concern Alberta youth are not “skilling up.”

Even retail has its bite. One street over is a university student home from Vancouver. Last summer, he worked at a grocery store. This season, it doesn’t need students.

To the west, my neighbour, newly graduated from SAIT, tells me he thinks it will take a while to find work. A close friend calls. Her university-bound son, too, is not “skilling up.” His folly? A summer job with Petcetera. It’s in receivership; he’s laid off.

When it comes to university degrees, only four out of 10 male youth up to age 24 have one. Yet employment prospects and income increase with education.

For years, Alberta’s male high school graduates made great money doing labour. Why go to college or university when the tuition costs and cost of living kept rising? Alberta benefited from their effort; now we need enough places at our colleges and universities, and ample loans and grants.

One lost summer won’t result in a lost generation. Young men, puttering? It’s not our way.

 
 
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