Gateway Gazette

Barriers to Employment for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

HireUp is a social enterprise that connects job seekers who have barriers to employment to meaningful work opportunities. The initiative is based on three principles:

  1. Find: discover untapped talent through partnerships with community employment support agencies across Canada
  2. Hire: job seekers can apply to opportunities directly online
  3. Retain: job seekers receive up to six months of wrap around supports from partnered community agencies to ensure success in their job.

Through their online employment platform, HireUp connects employers, community employment support agencies, and job seekers, to provide candidates with access to a range of employment opportunities. Employers who have partnered with HireUp include Home Depot Canada and Scotiabank. 

As a recipient of the grant, HireUp partnered with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness’ social enterprise, Hub Solutions, to conduct an evaluation of the HireUp initiative in order to examine its impact on the lives of people facing barriers to employment. Below we discuss the findings from the evaluation.

Barriers to employment for individuals experiencing homelessness

Looking to the literature on youth homelessness, the Without a Home study found that 3/4 of young people who experience homelessness are unemployed. Focusing on adults, the At Home/Chez Soi study reported that 93% of their participants were unemployed at the start of the study. These disproportionate numbers demonstrate that individuals who experience homelessness face several challenges in attaining formalized employment. It’s clear that specialized employment services that reduce barriers for individuals who experience homelessness are needed. This is where an initiative like HireUp comes in.

The evaluation

The evaluation was conducted in 2018, when HireUp was focused on assisting young people with their employment goals. Since then, HireUp has expanded to help people of all ages who face barriers to employment.  

The evaluation had four main goals: 

  1. to establish the program theory and develop a program logic model;
  2. to determine the effectiveness of the program in providing employment opportunities for youth who have experienced homelessness;
  3. to assess the strengths of HireUp;
  4. to assess areas of improvement for HireUp.

To achieve these goals, we used a methodology that incorporated qualitative and quantitative data. Our methodology included refining the program logic model, conducting interviews with HireUp staff, conducting interviews and surveys with young people who have accessed HireUp, and a secondary data analysis of interviews with representatives from youth serving organizations (YSOs) that have partnered with HireUp. 

Below we present some of our key findings.

How has HireUp grown since its launch?

In its first year of operation (2015), 76 job applications were submitted via HireUp, with an average of 6.3 applications per month. 

Over a three-month period (May 2018 to August 2018), there were over 305 submitted job applications. At the time of reporting for this evaluation, there were 1,372 active users on HireUp. 

The number of jobs posted on HireUp had also increased by the end of our evaluation, with over 300 active job posts that reflect 20 different employment sectors (e.g. retail, restaurant, banks, general labour, etc.).

What barriers are young people experiencing in seeking and/or maintaining employment? 

Young people commonly listed a lack of education and experience as major barriers to employment. Other barriers centered on not having Canadian job experience, language challenges, mental health challenges, and housing insecurity. YSO participants noted that stigma related to transgender and non-binary gender identities also served as a barrier.  

Were participants able to attain employment through the HireUp platform?

All of the interviewees and close to 88% of survey respondents reported applying to at least one job through the HireUp platform. Of the four interview participants who were currently employed, one was hired through HireUp and two were unsure. Of the 15 survey participants who were currently employed, two young people (13.3%) reported that they received their current job by applying through HireUp. 

What are the strengths of HireUp?

The participants generally had very positive feedback on the features and usability of the platform. The majority of participants found the website easy to use and were relatively happy with the job opportunities available. Two themes stood out when participants spoke of the strengths of HireUp: (1) job opportunities were tailored to young people; and (2) HireUp is a reputable website.

Recommendations

Based upon the results, we developed a series of recommendations focused on tangible actions HireUp could take to sustain and improve its platform, as well as recommendations for employers. The recommendations focused on five main areas: (1) data monitoring and feedback; (2) platform content and functioning; (3) breadth of employers and employment opportunities; (4) partnership development; and (5) employer opportunities. Read the full recommendations here.

Conclusion

The evaluation highlighted the impact that HireUp can have on helping job seekers with experiences of homelessness to attain employment. By reducing barriers and increasing access to a diverse group of employers, HireUp is providing a unique and much needed service to job seekers across Canada. HireUp is now being operated by Raising the RoofLearn more about Hire Up here

Authors:

John Ecker – Director of Research & Evaluation, Hub Solutions, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Sarah Holden – Research and Evaluation Officer, Hub Solutions, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness

Pamela Sariyannis

Hub Solutions is a social enterprise embedded within the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH). Income generated from Hub Solutions fee-for-service work is reinvested into the COH to support research, innovation, policy recommendations and knowledge mobilization. Learn more: https://www.homelesshub.ca/hub-solution/about-hub-solutions

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