Literature Review on Factors Affecting the Transition of Aboriginal Youth from School to Work

Aboriginal peoples represent Canada’s fastest-growing population, yet their education and employment outcomes lag significantly behind the rest of the Canadian population. It has been forecast that over 400,000 Aboriginal youth will enter the labour market by 2016 (Brigham & Taylor, 2006). This forecast is supported by the fact that almost 20 per cent of Aboriginal people are in the 15–24 age range (Statistics Canada, 2009a). Evidence from a variety of studies summarized in this literature review indicates that Aboriginal youth face more difficulties and barriers in making a successful transition to the labour market than non-Aboriginal youth. One of the major themes throughout the literature is that Aboriginal people are at risk of social exclusion (Fleury, 2002) and that they frequently experience difficulties in their school-to-work transitions (Thiessen, 2001). Despite many gains in education and employment outcomes (Hull, 2005), Aboriginal people remain one of the most vulnerable groups in Canada (Kapsalis, 2006). The difficulties faced by Aboriginal youth also represent a significant challenge for Canadian society. Today’s economy requires higher levels of education and skills for meaningful employment, especially in current and emerging knowledge sectors. Higher levels of education are known toimprove socioeconomic well-being, including employment level and health. Increasing the number of Aboriginal people with postsecondary education would not only benefit these individuals, their families, and their communities, but would also address Canada’s labour force challenges and improve the economy. This “social and economic imperative” (ACCC, 2011, p. 5) suggests a need to strengthen existing policies and programs to better support Aboriginal youth in their transition from education to employment.