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Future Skills: Canadian Voices

COVID-19 caused youth unemployment to rise from 10.3% in February 2020 to a historic high of 29.4% in May. Nearly 50% of 15-30-year-olds are out of school and unemployed or underemployed in precarious, low-income jobs. The economic costs (lost productivity, EI, social assistance, corrections, etc.) are staggering. The human costs, measured in mental health challenges, substance abuse, broken families, crushed hopes, and dashed dreams are worse!


This project features three leaders from industries that too rarely converge. Jon Long is from the entertainment industry. Ron Canuel is from the education industry. I'm from the career and workforce development industry.


We believe this is an issue that warrants urgent attention. We propose to mobilize a national campaign to engage diverse community stakeholders to support educators in equipping students with the skills, knowledge, experience, and resilience they need to transition from school to success. The stories of thirteen 18-24 year-olds (Fellows) who, despite daunting adversity, succeeded, will be the vehicle. The Fellows (1 per province and territory) will present to city councils, education groups, chambers of commerce, workforce partnerships, etc., then each interview as many as 100 students, workers, entrepreneurs, mental health, and social workers, workforce developers, community leaders. These conversations will be filmed in a cinematic, spontaneous, immersive, and authentic way, using the highest quality production standards, to capture the sincerity and raw emotions of the story-tellers. No cost web, film, social media, and print deliverables will then be promoted to communities across Canada to catalyze change.


With COVID-19, nearly 50% of 15-30-year-olds are out of school and unemployed or underemployed in precarious, low-income jobs. Youth from isolated, rural, and lower socio-economic areas and indigenous youth are particularly bearing the brunt of COVID-19. Acquiring the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to transition from school to a good job in today’s world is not in the curriculum. So, few graduates, let alone dropouts are “career-ready.” Employee engagement is about 30%, disengagement is about 50%, and active disengagement (sabotage) is about 20% (Gallup, 2019), so most adults were not “career-ready” when they entered the workforce.


Some young people quickly find their way to good jobs or create businesses. Regrettably, they are the minority. So, the research question is, “What can we learn from the stories of young Canadians who, despite diverse and daunting challenges, have found success that will inform campaigns in urban, rural, and remote communities in all regions of Canada to put students who transition from school to early career success in the majority?” This project will be especially helpful to particularly hard-hit youth and positively impact all sectors and regions.

Through the voices of a) diverse young people seeking a good job in this COVID-19 world, and b) organizations mandated to help them succeed - in urban, rural, and remote settings from sea to sea to sea – we will learn:

  1. The strategies that are most successful today in helping youth get good jobs sooner

  2. Education/training pathways that yield the best return on investment in getting youth in good jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities

  3. Essential skills and competencies young people now need to navigate uncertainty and which are most in-demand with employers

  4. Workforce sectors that are currently most hungry for young workers

  5. Programs, resources, and organizations that deliver the best results in helping young people get jobs matching their interest, studies, and aspirations

  6. Ways communities can come together to help their young get good jobs with local employers to increase prosperity for all

  7. Honest, credible, insightful advice for youth from adults who know and care, and from youth who “have been there and done that”


This project will deliver video, social media, and print elements any community in Canada can use in a campaign to transition more youth from school to success.

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The entire process will be documented by Jon Long and a world-class cinematographic team. A comprehensive website and a variety of Canadian social media short-form content, short- and long-form film, and print materials will be created. These will be made, at no cost, to communities across Canada for screenings to engage communities, spark conversations, and create impact across the country. Jon is already doing community screenings in the U.S. with 2 films he has recently created, SKOOL and RISE, in association with national organizations such as Teach for America and Education Reimagined in Washington, DC. Ted Dintersmith’s Most Likely to Succeed is used in this fashion across the U.S., as is the Innovation Playlist he and Sir Ken Robinson reated.

Jon has been a media creator for over 20 years. He has developed, produced, and directed films, multi-platform storytelling initiatives, and television shows for companies such as Universal Studios, IMAX, Disney, Universal, Entertainment One, National Geographic, and PBS. He is passionate about bridging the intersection of entertainment, technology, distribution, and education and finding innovative ways to create meaningful projects. He created EXTREME for IMAX® theaters, which became one of the most successful documentaries of all time as well as THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM for Universal. Many of his projects have extensive community engagement and educational initiatives in collaboration with organizations such as Outward Bound, PBS, and World Wildlife Fund.


Ron Canuel has received numerous awards for his leadership and vision in leading as the Director-General of the Eastern Townships School Board. In 2003, Ron was the principal architect with Canada's first system-wide 1:1 laptop deployment for all teachers and students from Grades 3-11. In 2010, Ron joined the Canadian Education Association, as President and Chief Executive Officer, to further encourage those interested in improving and transforming the public education system. Through the use of student-teacher-administrator-parent voice, the CEA believes that change can happen and that the use of technology can and should play an important role. However, as Ron points out, leadership without courage, only keeps institutions in the same place.

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