National organization Katimavik is teaming up with Calgary's youth employment centre to recruit young Calgarians to live and work outside of Alberta, and seeking local employment partners to bring Canadian youth here.
Organizers say it isn't only a good opportunity for youth in Calgary to get acquainted with other parts of Canada — it's also a chance for young Canadians to gain a different perspective of Calgary and its people.
Katimavik's FuturePerfect program sets up people between the ages of 18 and 30 with full-time paid jobs and housing in a designated Canadian city for three months, with the goal of providing life and work experience in a supportive environment.
The plan this summer is for the upcoming cohort to head to Quebec City to work in the tourism sector.
Program manager Danielle Kraus says Katimavik launched the program in 2022, after realizing many young people were lacking employment and travel opportunities after graduating from high school and post-secondary — especially during the pandemic.
"Some of them started university during the pandemic or finished high school during the pandemic. They haven't really had the opportunity to flex those wings or try something new because the world has, for lack of a better term, been closed down for them," said Kraus, who lives in Calgary.
"It's an incredible opportunity to be able to move out and flex that independence within the safety net of a federal program."
Crowds of people at a hiring fair held by Calgary's youth employment centre. (City of Calgary Youth Employment Centre)
The city's youth employment centre is helping with the search, and hosting an information session later this month about the program.
Tara Huxley, the city's coordinator of community services, recreation and social programs, says the program is a natural fit with the youth employment centre's work.
"We want young people to have the chance to see what's beyond their own community. It builds critical thought. It builds on the soft skills that employers are looking for," said Huxley.
Losing young Albertans? Not this time
Encouraging young Albertans to leave the province — even temporarily — may not have been in the cards a couple of years ago.
But there has been a shift since then. For example, the Calgary Foundation's 2023 Quality of Life report found that only 29 per cent of 18- to 24-year-old Calgarians plan on leaving the city. That's down from 40 per cent in 2022, and 60 per cent in 2021.
Kraus says there shouldn't be any concerns about young Calgarians leaving the city after partaking in the program.
"Most youth in the program do not end up moving to their host community," she said.
"They do end up returning to their home a little bit taller, a little bit more independent, a little bit more confident in themselves and the path that they want to take."
Huxley says she's noticed that more youth who do leave Calgary end up returning home.
And, as seen with interprovincial migration patterns, more and more people are seeing Alberta as a landing place.
"We are also seeing daily or hearing from young people from post-secondaries outside of Alberta who want to come to Calgary to work for their summer," said Huxley.
Bringing young Canadians to Calgary
It's why she's so excited about the idea of bringing FuturePerfect participants to Calgary.
Katimavik is searching for Calgary organizations and companies to register to become employment partners to help bring Canadian youth to our city. Employers receive wage subsidies through the federally funded program — and additional sets of hands to help out.
"The more that we can have young people come in and experience [Calgary's vibrancy] and leave with a different take on Calgary, that's a benefit to us, to our economy, to the people who live here," said Huxley.
Katimavik is asking Calgary organizations and companies to register to become an employment partner, so it can bring the FuturePerfect program to the city. Through the federally funded program, Katimavik provides wage subsidies to employers. (Ose Irete/CBC)
Kraus, who runs the program from Calgary, agrees.
"I do hope that when they come and they see how genuinely incredible Calgarians are, that they return home with that knowledge and maybe stop somebody in their tracks when somebody's saying something poor about Calgary or Alberta."
Kraus says she hopes to eventually expand the program to run in multiple cities across the country, in a variety of industries. That plan is dependent on federal funding.
Katimavik plans to release details on the summer program, including official dates, in March.