Digital Skills for Youth: Working with STEAM

Digital Skills for Youth: Working with STEAM

March 7, 2024

Five years ago, Pinnguaq was selected as a delivery partner for the 2018 Digital Skills for Youth (DS4Y) program, funded by the Government of Canada. DS4Y continues to be a shining example of how gaining digital skills can provide sustainable, local careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

It also highlights the importance of Pinnguaq’s Lifecycle, a unique approach to supporting the needs of learners and communities at every stage of their growth: education, resources, mentorship, employment, production and advocacy. Because all the education in the world won’t help if you don’t have opportunities to use the knowledge you build.

When it comes to employment, Pinnguaq works with private and public partners to create opportunities for learners to gain valuable work experience to see how STEAM knowledge is applied. DS4Y is a big part of that, and Pinnguaq has been grateful to see the results in action and to watch the program evolve to be more inclusive since its launch in 2018.

“The program serves the communities by providing direct wage and training support for digital skills jobs to small and midsize enterprises,” says Ruth Noble, Mentorship and Job Creation Manager for Pinnguaq. “It boosts young people’s potential by giving them skills to help, and it’s allowing businesses and not-for-profits to go in a direction they may not have been able to go before.”

For interns, this program can open doors to new career paths, equipping them with skills and real-world experience that otherwise would have been difficult, if not impossible, to build.

“I am so grateful for this program because it helped make this dream job a reality for me! It was significant that the company was able to hire me as an intern under a wage subsidy and give me the opportunity to professionally develop these past months,” said an intern in the 2021 programming year.

Another participant said they could develop skills that were not explored through university classes.

“Had it not been for this internship, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to gain these skills and experience which I think are essential to today’s growing digital space – and explore this career path. I see many opportunities available to myself now that wouldn’t have been without this internship,” said another intern.

What is DS4Y?

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS), DS4Y connects underemployed learners with small businesses and not-for-profit organizations where they can gain meaningful work experience.

Through the program, Pinnguaq – one of the delivery organizations selected by the federal government – works with Intern Host Organizations (IHOs) to help them create job opportunities that will support youth in developing impactful digital skills.

The opportunities and skills developed through these connections help prepare youth to prepare for and adapt to the changing workforce, particularly in digital-focused fields.

  • The Government of Canada allots a certain amount of funding to the DS4Y program.
  • The Government of Canada selects trusted delivery organizations, such as Pinnguaq, to connect with IHOs.
  • Pinnguaq works with IHOs to build job opportunities that would enable youth to fulfill a need within the employer while also developing important digital skills.
  • Pinnguaq connects IHOs with youth and supports all parties throughout their time together, reporting on the success.
  • Repeat, year after year, building the digital skills inventory within Canada’s workforce!

“Working with IHOs to build job opportunities that not only support their organizations but also their community has been an immense pleasure. Our team is honoured to have those relationships and be able to witness the difference this program makes,” says Ryan Oliver, Pinnguaq CEO.

“None of that would be possible without the funding from the Government of Canada though. We are so grateful to them for investing in digital skills training through DS4Y.”

How has DS4Y grown?

DS4Y started in 2018/2019. Even with very strict criteria, Pinnguaq delivered $93,060 in direct wage and support.

The criteria for this first year noted that all interns needed to be a recent college or university graduate, but studies have shown that students in the North face multiple barriers when it comes to attending post-secondary institutions – including geographical limitations. This precluded other eligible youth from those regions from participating.

Advocacy is also part of Pinnguaq’s Lifecycle so we worked with the government, noting how this criteria affected the communities we serve. The following year, the policy was changed to make it much more accessible for Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories businesses and interns.

For the 2019/2020 year, with the updated criteria, Pinnguaq provided $298,482 in wage and training support, facilitating 31 internships in the program’s second year.

As part of the federal government’s COVID relief measures, the DS4Y program grew substantially in 2020/2021. Funding doubled from $15,000 to $30,000 per position and the federal contribution increased to 100% for all businesses. Pinnguaq was able to provide $1,866,589 million in training and wage support, allowing the organization to facilitate 113 internships at 53 IHOs. Of the 113 interns, 31.5% were Indigenous and 56.6% identified as female.

Funding in 2021/2022 was again increased for the program, with Pinnguaq’s funding increasing twice yearly due to the organization’s success. In total, the final value of direct wage and training support through DS4Y as facilitated through Pinnguaq, was $4,024,900.

With this funding, Pinnguaq facilitated 231 internships at 104 IHOs. More than 59% of interns were female, 38.6% were Indigenous, 32.1% identified as a visible minority and 5.6% identified as living with a disability.

With the end of COVID related boosts to the program in 2022/2023 Pinnguaq still was able to facilitate 47 positions with $703,743 in direct supports.

DS4Y in 2023 and beyond

Pinnguaq has already been approved as one of the DS4Y delivery organizations for 2023 through 2025. Equipped with more than $1,184,000 in funding for direct wage and training supports, Pinnguaq looks forward to facilitating a total of 50 internships over the next two years.

Noble says she’s grateful the funders are allowing Pinnguaq to facilitate so many positions and looks forward to seeing the program continue to flourish.

“Our hope is the government sees how impactful this program is for businesses and for interns and that they continue or even expand their generous support in upcoming years,” she says.

More information about DS4Y is available through the Government of Canada and through our website.