Employment services in Rural and Urban Contexts

Despite offering the same services on paper, there is a difference in how Employment Service is delivered across urban and rural social service organisations. Compared to the urban site, the rural setting has fewer resources that can be used to address unique youth needs and its service is influenced by the staff's need to present successful clients. Importantly, addressing youth needs is tied to the availability and distribution of services located within each community.

McMaster Researcher


Braimoh, Jessica. 2015. “A Service Disparity for Rural Youth: The Organization of Social Services across the Urban Youth Centre and its Rural Branch.” The Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare XLII (2): 31-54

What is this research about?

Employment Service is a program run by Employment Ontario and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Education. Their purpose is to help people find and keep employment. Just over a quarter of Employment Service organisations concentrate on youth, and this study focuses on one of these organisations that operates across two different geographical settings: the Urban Youth Centre[1] and its Rural Branch.
To be eligible to work with an employment counselor, one must be out of school, out of work, or under-employed. In the Urban Youth Centre and its Rural Branch, there is a two-part intake process to determine eligibility. The first form is filled out by a counselor and it records subjective characteristics such as communication skills. The second form is a self-assessment filled out by the client to determine what skills they need to work on and what social barriers they face. Both the Urban Youth Centre and its Rural Branch are required by the Ministry to have 70% of clients leave with full-time work or employment better than they had, and 10% must have returned to school or joined employment training.

[1] The names of the organizational sites have been altered to protect the confidentiality of the people and communities involved in this research. 

What did the researchers do?

The researcher conducted 14 interviews with staff at both the Rural Branch and the Urban Youth Centre. She observed both sites to see how young people used the services.

What did the researchers find?

Despite the programs being standardized, there is not equal service across urban and rural settings. When a service does not exist at the Rural Branch to address an issue, employment counselors try to come up with ways to use resources that do exist to help with the problem. Young adults in rural areas have access to fewer opportunities when they access Employment Service.
Employment counselors are aware of producing "good stats" and reaching the targets set by the Ministry. When completing intake forms, the Rural Branch is less likely to document homelessness, addiction, or issues surrounding sexuality because they do not have the resources to address them. In the Urban Youth Centre, they have the resources to deal with these issues and the employment counselors note them. Regardless of what is included or excluded on these intake forms, both sites of the organisation are motivated to produce “good stats.” Importantly, what gets written down is tied to the available services that can be provided. 

How can you use this research?

This research is helpful to many social services that are offered in different areas. Rural and urban areas have different needs, as well as different resources to meet those needs. Although standardised services may operate across multiple sites of the same organisation, it might be better for attention to be directed towards the distribution of resources that become available to people. This may help to better meet people’s needs and institutional expectations. 

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