Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) focuses on individuals who are becoming independent adults, but have not had the opportunities, mentorship, education and family supports that are necessary for success. Many young people who go through the training program have never been employed before, have limited understanding of the job market and may not have been encouraged by their families to be employed.
YOU helps youth break cycles of poverty, lack of higher education, homelessness and addiction. Although the training program may not be in the field they want as a career, it allows them to learn valuable transferable skills and to develop skills, experiences and references. Youth learn customer service, how to function in a work team, follow instructions, meet deadlines and cope with multi-tasked environments. With these skills and experiences, youth gain confidence and develop the drive and ambition necessary for their professional success.
Over a 13 to 16 week skills training placement, youth in the program receive instruction and hands-on training in all areas of day-to-day operations at one of the five sites. The program’s primary focus is hands-on employability skills development. This includes. advancement of personal skills, improvement of communication skills, development of specific industry skills and job retention skills and the attitudes and behaviours that drive one’s potential for growth.
While youth learn day-to-day operations, the supervision, coaching and management is performed by the skilled, professional staff of YOU’s Enterprise Services. Reinforced throughout the training program are typical employer requirements such as good attendance, punctuality, conflict resolution, time management, goal-setting and team work. This training provides participants with the on-going coaching necessary for them to develop the positive personal and interpersonal behaviours which employers seek.
“YOU gave me employment when I couldn’t find work and helped me in my job search. YOU is a great support network with programs that will help me excel.”- Nakasuk (Youth Participant)
This program operates under a continuous intake model, with a potential 1 to 2 week overlap to allow for peer to peer learning. This increases the training opportunities for participants as newer participants can learn from those who have been in the program. This training supports youth development of increased confidence and communication skills. The model also ensures that the training opportunities are maximized and the project can be offered to participants when needed rather than making them wait, which is crucial to a youth demographic.
Revenue from the programs is invested back into the social enterprise to provide further skills development and employment opportunities to local youth. The program’s success is the simultaneous achievement of both economic and social values.
All of YOU’s facilities comply with and exceed health and safety standards.
YOU Made it Café
Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) Made It Café is an inspiring entrepreneurial model for community economic development. The Café offers healthy and freshly prepared meal/snack options for breakfast and lunch (either dine-in or take-out) as well as catering services and meal program preparation. The YOU Made It Café includes an expansive commercial kitchen within a multiservice three-story facility that provides education, affordable housing, training, primary healthcare and support programs for youth.
Participants at the YOU Made It Café benefit from a wide variety of experiences involving dine-in/take-out customers, preparation and set up of catering and the production of food for several healthy meal programs that are distributed throughout the city.
YOU Made It Recycling
Youth Opportunities Unlimited operates a recycling collection and commodity processing facility. The 6,000 square foot facility is Ministry of Environment approved and contributes to London’s ‘green’ economy. The service consists of picking up recycling products from more than 200 London businesses. The recycling is picked up weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Participants are responsible for pick-ups, sorting, equipment operation, scheduling, maintaining records and on-site interaction with customers while servicing contracts. At the recycling facility, youth are trained to operate several types of workstations that process recycled materials. Youth learn how to properly operate the following equipment: compactor/baler, shredder and granulator. YOU Made It Recycling services accepts clean plastics, glass, cardboard, newsprint, paper and aluminum and offers outstanding service to businesses large and small. The YOU Made It Recycling facility is MOE approved.
“The level of support and cooperation between Meals on Wheels London and YOU enables both organizations to grow and meet their goals. Everyone wins!”- Laurel Hevenor-Vallance, Executive
YOU Made It Woodworking
YOU operates a wood manufacturing facility creating a variety of products from primarily recycled wood. While youth work somewhat ‘independently’ (fully supervised) on specific machines or aspects of production, they are required to work together and exhibit respect in the workplace. Under the supervision of an experienced carpenter, youth learn the stages of wood furniture production from raw wood to finished product and are part of the youth team manufacturing wooden furniture for the outdoors. Youth are trained in the principles of woodworking from basic to advanced, the proper use of tools and machinery, tool and machine maintenance, selection of wood and much more.
A variety of wood products, in several types of wood, are made in the Woodshop including a Muskoka chair, mini-Muskoka, foot stool, storage bench, outdoor bench and a Tuck-Away chair. The Woodshop also produces cutting boards, wooden gift baskets (used to showcase Market Quality Preserves) and other items produced for marketing use.
YOU Made It Kiosk & Gift Basket Production
At the retail kiosk in Covent Garden Market downtown London, youth are part of a retail team selling Market Quality Preserves and designing and assembling Gift Baskets. This location is easily accessible to the youth and has significant traffic flow of target clients. Youth
learn how to process sales transactions, provide good customer service, merchandise in a retail environment, and sell. The youth are also trained to provide information on the wood furniture and recycling program and direct any customers to contact the Youth Sales Manager for further information or to place an order.
The youth participants assemble and design seasonal and custom gift baskets which include the preserves, a cutting board and locally sourced and competitively priced items such as chocolate/crackers/napkins all packaged in a wooden gift basket made by the woodshop.
YOU Made It Market Quality Preserves Production
There are 11 types of preserves currently produced at the Next Wave Youth Centre in Strathroy. These preserves include apple butter, cranberry chutney, pumpkin butter, green tomato relish, triple berry jam, strawberry-rhubarb jam, red pepper relish.
Youth make about 3,000 jars of jams, jellies, spreads, salsas, relishes, chutneys and barbecue sauces a year. The preserves are made and sold at the Café, at the YOU Made It kiosk at Covent Garden Market in downtown London and at special events. These products are marketed under the YOU Made It brand and are wholesaled locally to high-end grocery stores.
Conclusion: YOU Made It Enterprises
YOU Made It Enterprises enhances the community’s perception of socially disadvantaged youth. The programs help the community to see vulnerable young people as a resource and to see the tremendous impact the training program can have on at-risk youth. The new skills, confidence and ambition for success that youth develop allow other existing supports to more capably meet their needs. Job development, employment counseling and other support programs are more effective due to the youth participation in the skills training programs and services.
YOU’s approach actively integrates young people into their community; helping them build social and business networks. Youth experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, personal challenges or educational issues can enter the training program feeling hopeless and desperate for an opportunity to do better. The social connection the programs offer is profound because often these youth lead isolated lives that compound the struggles they face. A community of support is created for these youth among their co-workers, customers and many YOU staff, volunteers and supporters who engage with these youth daily.