Spring and summer of 2020 was a time of uncertainty, not just for the province of Nova Scotia, but for Canada and the world. Everyone everywhere was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing lockdowns and restrictions at every turn. Many businesses and organizations were shut down and youth employment rates were at an all-time low. High-school and post-secondary students and graduates were faced with unknowns surrounding their upcoming internships that would give them invaluable work experience and a job.  

“Towards the end of February, early March is when we start to recruit our Clean Leadership Summer Internship Program students and Science Horizons graduates.,” said Lauren Murphy, Director Workforce Development, Clean Foundation. “So needless to say, the pandemic threw this plan completely out of whack. Many of our employers immediately assumed they would not be able to hire, and we were at the point of almost all our positions not proceeding. With the youth employment rate dropping so intensely, we immediately went to work collaborating with our partners and employers to see how we could see the programs through knowing these jobs would be more important than ever.” 

Investments in internships are vital for youth 

The Clean Leadership Summer Internship program is made possible through provincial funding and federal funding and in 2020 additional funding was received through Efficiency NS and Divert NS. This funding allows both high school and post-secondary students the chance to take 9–15 week internship placements working on local environment projects. Science Horizons matches post-secondary graduates, aged 15-30, with positions across Canada that help combat climate change. Both work streams provide incredible opportunities not only to the interns enrolled in them but also to the employers who hire them. 

During a time when youth were struggling to find employment, the Workforce Development team was determined to see the programs go ahead. They connected in with the programs’ partners and employers, locally and across the country, to offer additional assistance, support, and flexibility to help ensure both programs could run as planned. 

“Our number one priority was to find a solution to help support our employers so together we could make sure that no intern lost out on their work term opportunity,” said Lauren.  

Pivoting for success 

Together, the Workforce Development team helped their partners and employers to change the trajectory of their initial work term plans to make them accessible remotely and virtually. The result? All previously planned employment opportunities went ahead and, Clean placed their highest number of interns to date!  

“The success of last year’s youth internship placements is a testament of what we can achieve when we all work together,” said Lauren. “We are thankful we could deliver incredible employment opportunities and experiences, that support a cleaner future, to our youth during an otherwise challenging year.”  

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