Youth across Muskoka are getting a leg up on their futures with a major $400,000 funding announcement made late last week.
On Aug. 31, Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement, in his role as minister responsible for FedNor, made the funding announcement at the Gravenhurst opera house to rounds of applause from representatives across the region. The money will be used to create 15 youth employment opportunities through internships for northern Ontario, including seven within Muskoka alone.
“We know we’re surrounded by a world of uncertainty; but Canada is an island of stability and we will continue to focus, as a government, on jobs and new opportunities for Canadians,” Clement said, adding the FedNor-funded youth internship program is one way to continue positive trends. “We also know that Canadian businesses, our entrepreneurs, our innovators have proven time and time again that they are up to the task of helping our economy when we give them the opportunity.
“(It’s) why of course, we’re focusing in on helping particularly our small businesses because they shoulder most of the responsibility for job creation and innovation,” he added. “A strong national economy is built on strong local communities; that’s why we the government is committed to investing in opportunities that build on our regional strengths, capitalize on some of our opportunities (and) to diversify our local economies.”
Since FedNor was created in 1987, 25 years ago, more than 1,300 northern Ontario graduates have been supported. Clement, now in his seventh year as its lead minister is the longest serving for FedNor and said that the youth internship program was one of his most satisfying to announce.
“When politicians talk they repeat the line over and over, ‘the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.’ I actually believe they are the leaders of today, not just tomorrow,” he said.
“But what is important, particularly here in northern Ontario, is that we provide the opportunity for young people to learn, to hone their skills, to demonstrate their abilities and when we do that is shows huge dividends,” Clement added.
The $400,000 will be spread out in the next year through Parry Sound-Muskoka and northern Ontario to recent post-graduates to work in their region.
Of the 15 interns, seven are being placed with Muskoka organizations, including the Muskoka lakes Music Festival, the Parry Sound-Muskoka Regional Tourism Organization (Explorer’s Edge), Savour Muskoka Culinary Experiences, the towns of Bracebridge, Huntsville and Gravenhurst, and the township of Lake of Bays. Each will be getting a $27,500 portion of the funds to cover the internship expenses.
The town of Bracebridge’s intern will be responsible for supporting the Muskoka small Business Centre and the Youth INC.ubator Program. Gravenhurst and Huntsville will each use their funds to hire an intern to assist with implementation of their respective community strategic plans.
“I do believe that this youth internship initiative is a much-needed program, especially given the challenges that unemployed or under-employed youth graduating from a post-secondary institution are faced with today,” said Gravenhurst Mayor Paisley Donaldson, who played host for the announcement.
Former FedNor youth intern Rebecca Francis recently completed her one-year term with the Town of Huntsville, supporting the earlier stages of the strategic plan process and has now been hired on full time. She said as a long-time Muskoka summer resident who had graduated university and was looking to grow permanent roots here, the opportunity was incredible.
“As I moved through university it became, how can I get back there (to Muskoka),” she explained, saying through the internship program, she was able to not only learn valuable skills, but do so in her chosen community. “It was a time for me to bring personal, academic and professional interests together; it really has prospects of being a career here for me now.
“I love living in Muskoka, I love that Muskoka is my home and that I can pursue a professional career here,” she added. “It was an amazing opportunity for me to hone my skills, demonstrate my abilities and really start contributing back to the community that is my home.”
“They show dedication, they show hard work, it pays off and it means that they (youth interns) can find the opportunities they need right here at home and that not all the opportunities are away,” MP Clement said. “It really is about a career and a future right here in northern Ontario.”