More than just a job portal

For young people who have experienced homelessness, there are myriad barriers to finding full-time employment, including: stigma, self-confidence, access and opportunity. Chief among the barriers, however, is stable housing…and stable housing requires employment. It can be a vicious cycle.

On the business side of hiring, there are certain industries with very high employment turnover resulting in huge costs and a lack of stability for employees. Hospitality, construction, customer service and retail are just some of the areas that experience poor retention rates. In addition, large companies are finding that corporate social responsibility programs are out of step with staff and management desires for more systemic social impact. Employee background check is an essential process for maintain the company reputation.

For non-profits who provide job training for youth who have experienced homelessness, there are resourcing barriers that prevent them seeing young people access sustainable employment. Despite training programs for young people, non-profits lack the resources to ensure each person placed in a job is then retained by an employer for the long-term.


HireUp is a systematic social change machine. Describing how the system works below is Paul Klein, Founder and CEO.

Paul Klein discusses Hire Up from Social Innovation Generation on Vimeo.

HireUp works on 4 levels:

  1. HireUp is a Job Portal. A robust website, powered by Workopolis technology, works to connect large companies with youth serving organizations (YSO) to source young employees who have experienced homelessness. Working with a YSO, young people complete training to prepare themselves for the workforce and apply for jobs through HireUp. HireUp has partnered with at least 22 youth serving organizations across Canada to date.
  2. HireUp is a Brand. It creates social awareness among employers ensuring they know they can employ youth who have experienced homelessness and advancing employers’ ‘readiness’ to hire.
  3. HireUp is a Data Collection Agent. In partnership with York University’s Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, HireUp’s technology collects data from 3 sources: corporations, youth-serving organizations and the youth themselves. The information provides valuable data for HireUp, but also for studies into effectively addressing long-term homelessness, statistics on young people experiencing homelessness, and those that move into sustainable long-term housing and employment.
  4. HireUp is a Social Enterprise. Aiming to be profitable by the end of 2017, HireUp will re-invest profits back into the youth-serving organizations providing training and education for youth who have experienced homelessness.

Impakt developed and launched HireUp in November 2015. It came out of work Impakt was doing with the Home Depot Canada Foundation who, over the years, had arrived at a focus on youth homelessness. Together, Impakt and the Foundation came to understand that a crucial part of ending homelessness was finding employment. In the summer of 2014, they spoke with youth serving organizations to get to the root of the challenge. There was a recurring theme. They all had employment readiness programs, yet none of the youth were getting hired. Impakt staff thought, imagine if there was a Workopolis model that could help bridge between youth, YSOs and employers.

Once Impakt arrived at the Workopolis idea, and it was validated by the YSOs, it became a case of how and with who? HireUp was fuelled by Impakt’s existing partnership with the Home Depot Canada Foundation and an agreement with Workopolis to provide the technology to make it real. It proved a powerful combination. Impakt also benefitted from the pioneering work of Social Capital Partners and Bill Young who had been trialing a similar model for some years prior to HireUp’s launch:

“Bill Young’s pioneering work at Social Capital Partners has been foundational for us. Bill’s early insight into the importance of improving social hiring by focusing on the demand side (employers) is reflected in HireUp’s emphasis on engaging some of Canada’s largest corporations as HireUp Employers.”

Paul Klein, Founder, HireUp

HireUp has the potential to be transformative if the power of the technology can mesh with rising brand awareness and tap into more partners to unlock thousands of jobs for youth who have experienced homelessness. It has the potential to change the way corporations direct resources – from CSR to HR – to have the greatest social impact.

Founder Paul Klein believes that HireUp has come at a time when corporations are feeling some dissatisfaction with corporate social responsibility projects. Corporations want their work to have business value and social value and they want to measure their social change investments. Klein also sees that increasingly corporations recognize the social implications of hiring, including:

Sustainable family income, greater resiliency, better health outcomes, school retention, less family violence, less interaction with the criminal justice system.

“In fact, less dependence on the things that charitable organizations are supplying which corporations support through CSR efforts.


Klein believes HireUp can be a global call to action for corporations to create awareness of hiring youth that have experienced homelessness. He also believes the scope can expand to other areas where people face barriers to employment. The technology allows for scale at low cost, making it an attractive social investment vehicle.


Despite the generous support of the Home Depot Canada Foundation, setting up the enterprise cost Impakt as much as the Foundation was contributing. Financing a new project from core business cash flow is dangerous. As launch date approached, all staff were working on HireUp and the business could not take on additional paying clients. Once the project was launched, there were no sources of revenue coming in from other projects. Klein admits they could have gone bankrupt doing that and would never finance a project that way again. As of March 2016, they have begun to rebuild their other advisory and consulting services.

Every opportunity has an opportunity-cost. We did not understand that.

HireUp is currently under the legal umbrella of Impakt, which itself is a B-Corporation. They have one full time staff member working on it, but all staff contribute to its development. Long-term, there are two possible structural scenarios for the project: (1) where HireUp becomes its own separate business entity; (2) where HireUp is run by one of the partner youth-serving organizations.

Paul Klein hopes that HireUp will give people a sense that there’s a practical way that business can contribute to social change. He believes this is a social and business innovation made in Canada and something that people can feel really proud of and build on.

The main thing is that it’s social; the success will be when every youth that has experienced homelessness is able to get a job. 

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