Coins in a jar

Employment program works financial literacy into the mix

An Alberta-based community literacy organization has added a new twist to its youth employment program. The Taber Youth Employment Program, run by Taber Adult Learning in Taber, Alberta, has incorporated financial literacy training into its seven-week in-class instruction.

Now, in addition to learning skills such as job hunting and interviewing, participants are equipped with the necessary skills to manage a household budget after they find employment.

The program works with people aged 15 to 30 who have struggled to find consistent meaningful employment in the region. With a large number of learners from the Mennonite community, program participants often have not graduated high school, and many of them speak English only as a second language.

Garth Mouland, who teaches the financial literacy portion of the program, believes he is filling a gap that many employment programs are missing.

“There are a lot of programs out there that help learners find work, but some of them don’t help participants ensure they have the skills to manage a budget once they have that steady income stream,” he says. “A lot of our learners have already struggled with finance in the past, so it makes sense to teach it alongside workplace skills. They go hand in hand.”

Mouland believes that personal financial management is an essential skill, and it’s one that a lot of Canadians are missing, no matter how educated they may be.

“Many of our learners, I’d say about 80 per cent, have identified that they need help with personal finance, and they’re very open about it,” he said. “They struggle with things like understanding how credit works, interest rates on payday loans, and budgeting, all of which are topics covered in the Money Matters program, which is what we use to teach financial literacy as part of our training.”

Money Matters is a free introductory financial literacy program for adult learners, offered by ABC Life Literacy Canada. The program is free for community groups across the country, and workshops can be delivered by the staff of the group delivering the program, or in some instances, TD Bank Group volunteers are available to help facilitate sessions.

The Taber Adult Learning Youth Employment Program lasts about 19 weeks, seven of which are in-class and 12 of which are a work placement. Being based in southern Alberta, many of the job placements are in the agricultural food industry, but many participants seek work in IT, sales and childcare.

There are about eight learners in each program and about 70 per cent of them get hired on after their job placement. Ten per cent will go on to attend post-secondary education and 20 per cent have the skills and experience to find a new job.

But perhaps most importantly, all learners have the financial skills to manage their income once they find employment.