Helping Youth Find Vision

“We are not an employment program; we are a life envisioning program: what kind of person are you? What do you want to do with your life? How do you get from here to there?”

At the World Congress 2023 – Collective Intelligence in Montreal, our panel shared their experience with the Reboot Plus program. Here, we outlined what makes Reboot Plus unique in a land of programs designed to transform or fix young people to be successful in post-secondary education and careers. Reboot Plus takes a different approach. Peter Wilkins started the conversation. Below is a condensed version of his talking notes.

Reboot Plus students are not engaged in their schools or communities

“Reboot Plus is an experimental program for youth who have difficulty graduating from high school (roughly 10-12% of the high school population, depending on where you are). Many are in an alternative education program. They’ve been bullied and ostracised. They suffer depression and anxiety, particularly social anxiety. They have trouble getting up in the morning, never mind going to school. They are alienated from high school and can’t see much of a future beyond it.

Reboot Plus returns a sense of possibility

“Reboot Plus is about returning that sense of possibility to a group of people who have just about given up on “being” anything. We encourage that blissfully ignorant, batshit crazy, threading the needle sense of possibility. Then we show them how to get there. And along the way we show them all the corollary possibilities. Not everybody gets to be a movie director, but there are plenty of jobs in the film industry in Vancouver that can fuel our participants’ passion, while they work out their destinies. And while the participants work themselves out, they get to talk to people who work in the film industry who will give their warts and all tales of the work they do. That’s the Plus part of Reboot Plus.

We flirt with an optimism that at first seems a little misguided, if not ridiculous. Then after a while people buy in, and what seemed outlandish becomes worth thinking about if not plausible. Maybe a young person who has given up on high school can become an engineer, a graphic designer, or a poet, if we be curious about them rather than judgmental and just believe.

Reboot Plus provides a safe space

“We meet the youth where they are, put as little pressure on them as possible, and help them get out of the rut that high school has put them in. They do a lot of self-assessment; hope-centred career development; pathway exploration; information interviews with professionals; and experience the post-secondary environment, learning about programs, services, and societies for people just like them.

Reboot Plus is a net for catching genius

“We live in a time of serious problems that require serious genius thinking. There’s no point in getting these youth on the bus if it’s hurtling towards a cliff edge. They may as well stay in bed. The education system is not just a conduit to employment. It’s a net for catching genius. In desperate times we need spread that net as wide as possible across all the disciplines, the arts and sciences, the applied sciences, practical and impractical programs. We don’t know where the ideas that are going to save us are coming from. So making the genius net smaller is a disaster, like burning the Amazon rainforest for monoculture farming.

“There has never been a time in human history where the sciences have been strong and the arts weak or vice versa. They have always fed off of each other in a virtuous cycle. The great scientific discoveries have been dependent on interdisciplinary imagination. When Darwin needed a break, he read economics, which led to the theory of natural selection. When Johannes Kepler was trying to figure out the laws of planetary orbital motion, he turned to music. We need poets as much as we need engineers.

Reboot Plus is a connection point

“Being able to conduct information interviews with professionals in fields they are interested in is a real boon to our participants and the program. It adds real-life possibility and texture to our youth participants’ ambitions. The fact that the professionals are so eager to sign up and enjoy talking to the youth is icing on the cake.

We are not only researching things like self-efficacy and confidence in our youth participants. We are also looking at employers’ attitudes toward this demographic. How willing are they to entertain hiring a young person who has struggled in high school? Quite willing, it turns out.

And boards of trade and chambers of commerce have been fantastic about broadcasting the project and working with us to get access to employers.

Reboot Plus is removing the barriers

“Sometimes the worst enemy of these young people is their parents, who believe that wanting to be a fashion designer or theatre technician or an artist is foolish. I’ve done enough research on education to know that successful outcomes are not dependent on what people study. All that matters is that they study something, preferably something they are really interested in.

I’m hopeful that employers will not only support Reboot Plus youth as individuals, but also support a comprehensive education system where no avenue is shut down and where the desire of young people to do what they want to do is fully supported, no matter how far-fetched or idiosyncratic.”

With funding from the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, we are examining whether a hope-centred education and career development program can help youth find their purpose.

Le projet Reboot Plus est financé par le Centre des Compétences futures du gouvernement du Canada.