Adrian Legin, chief executive officer of Coastal Community Credit Union and Ralph Nilson, president of Vancouver Island University speak about addressing poverty at the State of the Island Economic Summit last week. They were joined by Jeremy Higgs, executive director of labour market information office with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, who is not pictured.                                TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

Adrian Legin, chief executive officer of Coastal Community Credit Union and Ralph Nilson, president of Vancouver Island University speak about addressing poverty at the State of the Island Economic Summit last week. They were joined by Jeremy Higgs, executive director of labour market information office with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, who is not pictured. TAMARA CUNNINGHAM/News Bulletin

VIEA proposes action to address youth poverty

Poverty at heart of position paper and State of the Island Economic Summit session

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance sees the potential to address poverty and the demand for employment by supporting impoverished youth to access education and join the labour force.

The economic alliance held a session on poverty at last week’s State of the Island Economic Summit and has released a position paper, developed with Vancouver Island University and Coastal Community Credit Union, on improving opportunities for youth living in poverty.

WorkBC’s Labour Market Outlook for 2015-2025 shows more than 900,000 jobs openings in B.C. within the decade and 78 per cent will require some form of post-secondary education.

The economic alliance, however, says in its paper that 21 per cent of youth living in poverty are not likely to graduate from high school or get the training they need for meaningful employment.There’s a mismatch of supply and demand and a potential solution is to help youth get the supports they need to be successful, it states.

It calls for people to understand and own the issue of poverty and build “pathways” to address it, while also developing plans to strengthen engagement with at-risk youth and families, invest in supports to help interrupt the cycle and broaden support for educational access and success.

Adrian Legin, chief executive officer of Coastal Community Credit Union, said poverty costs us all and economic and social prosperity issues are tightly linked, something business leaders understand. He also said poverty is mutating and the issue is getting much worse, with subsequent issues such as people who are employed but homeless because they can’t afford to rent in their locations.

“The challenge we have as business leaders is not just to create jobs, but create higher paying jobs,” said Legin, who spoke to a focus on developing human capital.

Vancouver Island University president Ralph Nilson said education is key to social and economic prosperity. One thing VIU knows is that if money is put into children’s hands before they’re in Grade 5 and they know there’s money in the bank, they are four to five times more likely to get post-secondary education, he said. The university has a full-time employee spreading information and signing kids up for the Canada Learning Bond, which sees the Canadian government contribute up to $2,000 towards their education.

Nilson has seen a higher uptake in the Canada Learning Bond, from 11 per cent seven years ago to 37.6 per cent in Nanaimo but 4,316 eligible children are not receiving it and between Nanaimo, Parksville, Qualicum, Cedar, Ladysmith, Powell River and Duncan close to $20-million is left on the table. He said people have to file taxes to get the money and a lot of people in poverty and in aboriginal communities don’t do that and the federal government has no way of dealing with it. He’s seeking to address the issue.

The economic alliance is seeking endorsement on its poverty paper. To read it, see www.viea.ca.