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Providing kids with work experience while fueling creativity


This video was produced in February 2020, prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has impacted community programs in ways both big and small, meaning this program may look a bit different right now. This story is an example of how United Way works with our community partners to make a difference 365 days a year—no matter what challenges our community faces.

Hot Shoe Productions: No, we’re not talking about the latest shoe trend, we’re talking about real world opportunities for local youth.
At Hot Shoe Productions, a social enterprise run by the Social Planning Council of Ottawa and supported by United Way East Ontario, youth learn valuable skills like responsibility, teamwork, leadership, and time-management, all while being gainfully employed.

One of the toughest challenges to overcome as a young adult is gaining valuable work experience. Hot Shoe understands that, which is why they work to empower youth to pursue what they’re passionate about, while ensuring they have the skills they need to transition into the labour market.

Youth staff are graduates from Youth Active Media, a video training program delivered in priority neighbourhoods across Ottawa through Youth Ottawa. During their time there, they gain expertise in event coverage, producing educational videos, promotional videos for clients, and more—resulting in a wide range of experience that will be essential to their career paths.

Providing opportunities for youth is at the core of Hot Shoe’s mission, and United Way shares this same goal. To show off the concrete skills they’ve learned, the video below was shot and edited by the young people you see featured in the video!

“The biggest thing United Way and Hot Shoe Productions have in common is giving youth the opportunities to get employable skills.”

Setting youth apart by providing them with the confidence to pursue their passions

As of January 2020, the unemployment rate for youth aged 15 to 24 years was 10.2 per cent in Ontario. Meaning for some, professional employment opportunities are still quite rare, and many young adults—particularly those living in low-income situations or vulnerable neighbourhoods—are struggling to find their way. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we can help young adults navigate their path.

Leveraging our network of partners and donors to create real solutions

At United Way, we take a holistic approach to addressing employment disparities for vulnerable populations across our region. Aside from our work with social enterprises, we’re also involved in initiatives that bring key community stakeholders together to pursue a collective mission. 

United Way co-chairs Partnering for Success in Youth Employment alongside the Royal Bank of Canada and the Ottawa Employment Hub. Working with employers and key community partners from the non-profit and private sectors, the initiative’s goal is to improve entrepreneurial skills and labour market outcomes for youth.

Based on our latest round of reporting from United Way investments made in 2018-19, we saw that in Ottawa, 75 per cent of youth who participated in programming designed to support their transition to employment gained post-secondary employment, further education, or credentials. That year, 81 supported youth from ages 15 to 24 found employment.

“The program has helped me on my career path by giving me the experience that I’ve always wanted in the entertainment industry.”

Thanks to United Way supporters, youth are given opportunities to flex new skills and work within a team, equipping them with the tools and confidence they need to succeed in whatever path their lives may lead them on.




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