Pathways to Education Canada: Addressing Barriers to Education in Low-Income Communities Across Canada

The Facts

Is high school dropout really an issue in Canada?
Yes. Across Canada, the average high school dropout rate ranges from 7-13%. However, in low-income communities across the country the average high school dropout rate dramatically increases to 30-50%.

Why are youth from low-income communities dropping out of high school?
Many youth from low-income communities face additional barriers to education than students in more advantaged communities. These barriers include, but are not limited to, costs associated with transportation to and from school, a lack of nutritious meals throughout the day, unfamiliarity with the English language, a lack of safe spaces, and little to no financial security.

Why does it matter if youth from low-income communities graduate from high school?
Dropping out affects everyone – the student, their family, their community, and the entire country; it has far-reaching social and economic consequences.

Research confirms that those who do not complete high school are more likely to be unemployed.

Unifor’s Partnership with Pathways to Education

Pathways to Education has continuously received recognition for their innovative and effective work in helping youth in low-income countries overcome barriers to education and graduate high school. Recognizing that education and income are the two principle determinants of health, Pathways designed a program to act as a counterweight against the negative impacts of poverty and other conditions of life in disadvantaged communities. The program first began as an initiative in Toronto's Regent Park community, where the average family income was below $18,000 and the youth high school dropout rate was an astonishingly high 56%. Beginning from just a small cohort of 100 students, today in Regent Park alone there are 830 youth actively involved between grades 9 and 12.

Pathways to Education works diligently to provide mentoring, tutoring, scholarships, and employment opportunities to youth across the nation. As a result, Pathways programs have dramatically reduced Canada’s high school dropout rate and in doing so, have helped change hundreds of lives forever.

Unifor is proud to support Pathways in their efforts to continue impacting youth across the country. In anticipation of a growing number of students, Unifor partnered with Pathways in 2013 to support the rising demand for:

  • Part-time job opportunities for high schools students, who are often major contributors to the household income;
  • Continued improvement of the Pathways career mentoring and readiness programs currently delivered at all sites;
  • Internships that enable students  to gain practical experience in a professional setting under conditions conducive to educational development;
  • Apprenticeships that can provide students with the specific skills to increase their potential for employment after high school;
  • Networking and career opportunities for Pathways alumni who are looking for long-term employment as they complete their post-secondary education.

Since the 3-year long project began in 2013, Pathways to Education has continued to expand the number of programs as they stretch to more students each year. In fact, June 2015 marked the 10th anniversary of Pathways’ first graduating class.  They have become a highly respected and incredibly successful organization, hosting numerous events and campaigns to raise funds and receiving a 4-star/A+ rating by Charity Village.

Unifor’s commitment to Pathways has helped facilitate the development of the National Employment and Internship Program and helped implement the following elements:

  • Specialized leadership training and support on issues and opportunities related to youth employment;
  • Providing students with the tools and networks they need to reach their employment goals;
  • Helping youth discover their potential and pursue career paths that are of interest to them;
  • Providing the necessary supports to secure long-term employment;
  • Establishing partnerships with youth employment agencies in each Pathways community;
  • Create an employment advisory committee of industry sector leaders to help develop a strategy to recruit students for internship opportunities;
  • Develop opportunities to increase the number of paid internships made available to Pathways students;

Additionally, in March 2015 Pathways held a day-long career conference for students, where they welcomed a jam-packed line up of speakers and activities. This annual conference gives senior students a one-of-a-kind chance to network with professionals who provide them with insider advice on how to move toward their dream career.

To date, Pathways to Education has reached over 5,300 students in 17 programs across 5 Canadian provinces. While acknowledging their accomplishments, Pathways continues to strive toward changing the landscape in low-income communities while continuing to enable youth to achieve their wildest dreams.

Unifor stands with Pathways to Education in their efforts to build a #GraduationNation