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It's a difficult time for young people. Youth unemployment is high, with many recent grads looking for their big breaks. While it can be tough, the winners of Canada's Top Employers for Young People are paving the way as exemplary recruiters of young people. They demonstrate to the rest of the country that it is possible to be successful and profitable, while being committed to training and helping out talented, committed young people.

Youth unemployment is still very much a top-of-mind issue, which makes it all the more important for employers to take the first step and help students and new grads enter the workforce, says Kristina Leung, editor of Canada's Top 100 Employers. Employers selected for this year's list understand that recruiting young talent is an investment for the organization's future, and recognize students and new grads as an invaluable resource. These organizations are committed to the success of the next generation by providing them with the tools, skills and knowledge needed for their future roles.

The editors at Canada's Top 100 Employers have been organizing this contest annually since 2001, highlighting companies that donate time, money, and effort to hiring talented young people.

Prior to 2007, says Leung, the competition was published annually as an appendix to the Canada's Top 100 Employers paperback.  Over the years, employers have shared detailed information on their in-house training programs, and in more recent times, targeted initiatives to address the unique needs of younger workers have emerged. Our editors now publish detailed Reasons for Selection, which explain why each of the winning organizations were chosen, and highlight the most progressive programs tailored to the recruitment of young people.

This year, over 3,250 employers applied to be on the list, making it one of the most popular competitions for applicants.

Employers are evaluated based on the programs they offer to attract and retain younger workers, says Leung. These include benefits such as tuition assistance, the availability of co-op or work-study programs, and in-house training initiatives. The growth of this year's list is a reflection of the overall growth of our total applicant pool for the Canada's Top 100 Employers project, as well as the strength and relevance of the subject matter. More employers are paying attention to employment issues of interest to young people.

And the topic of youth employment has never been more relevant. This year will see the most degrees earned in the history of Canada, meaning a huge influx of young people looking for work. Luckily, these companies are leading the way in employing youth through innovative, inclusive programs.

The winners share several important characteristics: most notably, a formal commitment to recruiting young people through training programs that focus on the transition from academic life to the working world, says Leung. Employers selected for this list have a strong presence on university and college campuses across Canada through work-study and co-op programs, and offer paid internships and summer student opportunities to help new grads and current students gain relevant experience in the field.  Winners have a strong company culture that encourages ongoing employee education and professional development'much needed to foster growth in new employees.

Employers selected for this year's list have a long-term focus when recruiting young people and recognize that investing in their development is truly an investment into the organization's own success, she adds. The very best employers offer a range of training options, including in-class and online programs, and encourage employees to continue to pursue education through subsidies for tuition and professional accreditation. Furthermore, they ensure that younger workers benefit from the knowledge and experience of others by offering mentoring, networking, and opportunities to interact with senior-level employees on a regular basis.

Some employers have taken it a step further, moving away from traditional interviews and engaging with young people by organizing industry-related competitions or contests, some of which result in temporary or permanent employment. The best employers realize that offering young employees opportunities to develop their skills and talents simply makes good business sense.

The editors at Canada's Top 100 Employers hope that, by publishing this list each year, they raise the bar for other employers to adopt a forward-thinking approach when recruiting younger workers. it's also a great resource for students, says Leung, as it provides insights into what it might be like to work at any one of the organizations selected and the resources available to them.

For the full list, check out the official site.