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In a building where face-to-face debates between political opponents are normal activities, the British Columbia legislature will be a much different place when it returns Monday for a summer sitting. The B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C. is shown on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

The British Columbia government has launched a program aimed at creating work for 15-to-29-year-old youth in community service while their job prospects are dramatically affected by COVID-19.

Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark said Monday that almost 25 per cent of youth are unemployed in B.C. and the program would give them an opportunity to work outdoors on initiatives such as building trails or cleaning beaches.

The $5-million program would provide up to $10,000 in grants for community projects lasting up to 16 weeks, Ms. Mark said.

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The money is part of a labour market development agreement with the federal government, which provided provinces and territories with funding in 2018.

B.C. received $685 million over six years, the Advanced Education Ministry said.

The Youth Community Partnership Program introduced Monday would give youth a training stipend of up to $2,000 per four-week period to a maximum of $8,000 for work until the end of October.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty out there,” Ms. Mark said, adding physical-distancing requirements mean a limit of 10 youth will be part of each project.

Participants could also receive supports such as bus passes, child care, work boots and personal protective equipment.

Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson said the program would provide young people with responsibility and work experience as B.C. begins to recover from the pandemic.

“We know the challenge of jobs is very real and we know that youth employment and youth unemployment is very much a challenge moving forward,” Mr. Simpson said as he urged community groups to get their applications in quickly to benefit youth who could work during the summer.

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Chief Counsellor Robert J. Dennis Sr. of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations said students face an uncertain future and participating in the program would give them skills they could take into their career.

Chief Dennis said his community in Port Alberni could benefit from projects related to the environment in the area that currently has a fishery renewal initiative under way.

“This would certainly be a good time to introduce the youth to why fishery renewal is really important to the nation. Forestry renewal is another thing,” he said.


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