Vital People: Program gets skills, training for youth entering workforce

Young people entering the workforce now have a better chance to find the tools and training they need thanks to the Shift program offered by the Construction Foundation of B.C.

“The program, which launched just over a year ago, is an opportunity to help youth build employability,” said Audrey Wilkinson, director of social development at the foundation.

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One of the components of the program is From Care to Career, an initiative designed to help youth in provincial care. It assists them in transitioning out of care by providing a bridge to a career in the construction industry — an opportunity to receive a sponsored apprenticeship and to earn while they learn.

“All youth need support, but we saw the demand from this particular group grow in the last few years,” she said. “They lack the family structure to rely on as they transition out of care.”

Every year, about 1,000 young people transition from care in the province.

The Shift program reduces barriers and connects participants with skills needed on the job site. The objective is to help them develop the attitude, skills and knowledge employers look for in a new hire.

A driver-training fund helps participants get a driver’s licence.

“It’s a practical skill that many employers in all fields require. It’s amazing how many young people don’t have one,” said Wilkinson.

A grant from the Victoria Foundation was used to defray some training and licensing fees. Funds also went toward the cost of certification needed in some fields.

The program also provides youth with a bridge to employment, through the B.C. Construction Association’s Skilled Trades Employment Program. Through its contacts, it helps connect the young person with their first opportunity for employment in the industry. Participants are paired with mentors when necessary, who provide ongoing support and advice.

The construction industry is not the only segment of the marketplace used for job placement. Others, such as manufacturing, the oil-and-gas sector and the automotive trades also benefit.

“We’re training the next generation of skilled workers,” said Wilkinson. “We partner with funders and other agencies to get youth the industry-focused education they need to start a career.”

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