Various organizations throughout Canada have sought to develop their own Youth Advisory Committees, which gather information from individuals, generally aged 13-19, but some up to 25. The goal of the committees is to hear directly from young people about how to best engage them to grow their influence. They also offer opportunities for students to gain experience in leadership and communications, while providing them with a resume asset and a possible shoe-in with the organization they are advising. The phenomenon has seemed to create a mutually beneficial relationship in which young adults offer their time, while corporations or governments offer a title and experience.
Such organizations include the RCMP; Ministries of Education in Alberta and Ontario; the Federal Government; several constituency offices on both provincial and federal levels; many municipalities; and Plan International Canada.
Many utilize social media to spread awareness of their committees but some, such as the RCMP Youth Advisory Committee, exist entirely on social media. Students, once selected, can join a Facebook group and comment their answers to questions posted by the moderators, giving their perspective. This has allowed the RCMP to gather opinions from students across the country, without needing to devote resources to get them all in one place. By forgoing the costs of airfare and accomodations, companies become able to reach farther to hear from bright young voices across the globe, and expand more efficiently.
As a member of the RCMP Youth Advisory Committee, Shealah Hart, said,
“It is truly amazing how the world of social media allows us to connect with others. I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of multiple youth advisory committees, most recently the RCMP National Youth Council and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada National Youth Council. Social media has been an amazing tool to share, connect and learn together as a team with both councils. With members from all over the country, social media platforms such as Facebook have been an incredibly convenient way to connect with one another.”
Plan International Canada also accomplished this task by holding their meetings via Hangouts, a Google application that is similar to Skype.
Other groups host their meetings a few times per year, in a conference style setting, to give students an opportunity to connect with each other and ruminate on ideas.
Not only do they provide insight into contemporary interests, youth committees also allow companies to signal that they are willing to listen to input from a multitude of voices, garnering more interest from young potential customers. Furthermore, the campaigns aimed at getting youth to join their committees, also generate name recognition for the company.
Political committees also help generate support for the political figures that host them, and give politicians the opportunity to engage with young voters and future voters.
One example is the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, which includes students aged 16-24 throughout Canada’s provinces and territories. As grassroots students were appointed to the council their communities rallied around them and were grateful to the Prime Minister for the chance to share their voice.
Macgregor Tebbutt, a member from British Columbia, wrote about his experience in a 4H blog post, where he discussed his role on the committee, what contributions he made, and the impact it has had on his life back in British Columbia.
He explained, “Together with my fourteen peers, we identified youth engagement gaps and gave our creative and practical input for getting youth involved…One of the topics that repeatedly came up in all of our conversations with government officials was the question of how to get the young people of today involved. What we quickly realized was that no matter the issue, no matter the discussion, the only way to make significant progress is to get people involved.”
Tebbutt continued, “My biggest role on the council is to provide the other council members and government officials the 4-H perspective and that of rural youth.” and “I brought back to British Columbia some new perspectives to continue the momentum of driving youth engagement in my community.”
As these committees continue to grow in popularity, more youth will become involved, and be given the chance to explore the ideas by rolling up their sleeves and working it out with their peers in a professional setting, providing them with the framework for success in the workplace.