The British Columbia construction workforce requires new recruits. A new program, The Shift, aims to help identify them among more than 1,000 young people who transition out of care in the province each year and begin their training for construction work—including helping them obtain a driver’s license.
“While in care, these young people are part of a supported environment, but when they become adults, they may lose their entire support system,” says Abigail Fulton, executive director of the Construction Foundation of B.C.
“Our program aims to connect with youth before and after their transition out of care to help them develop skills and abilities that will lead to a future in the construction industry.”
The foundation, which grew out of the B.C. Construction Association, has flexed plenty of charitable muscle in recent years. Its first initiative, Project Shop Class, has already raised and distributed more than $3 million in grants, to buy up-to-date tools and equipment for school shops.
“We’ve had a growing presence in the kindergarten to Grade 12 system,” says Fulton.
“That’s the area where we’re concentrating our charitable efforts, so that we can help support not only the next generation of construction workers, but help students to become employable and connect with all sorts of industries before they leave school.”
The Shift helps youth transitioning out of care to qualify for a job, so that they can begin an apprenticeship in any of the skilled construction trades.
“If you have the skills to get that first job, you can earn money while in apprenticeship,” says Fulton. “For kids leaving care, an opportunity to make money while going to school is particularly advantageous.”
The Shift will focus on achievements students can put on their resume before they leave school, using the charity’s online FutureBuilder tool as a guide. These include earning safety certificates as well as developing important business skills, such as crafting a solid resume and application letter.
However, after the charity canvassed its “catalysts”— program supporters who work in high schools, but also provide a bridge to the construction industry — a driver’s license was identified as one of the most important items an applicant required to succeed. The Shift program begins with that goal.
While attaining a driver’s license was once considered a prime pursuit among high school students, a cultural shift has seen younger Canadians taking less interest in owning or driving a car.
“If you’re going into the trades, you’d better have a way to get to a project, and often public transit or car hire apps aren’t going to get you there,” says Fulton. “Many companies also require workers to use company vehicles. Simply showing up for your interview with a driver’s license is indicative of some effort on the part of the applicant.”
In part funded by grant money from charitable organization the Victoria Foundation, The Shift is partnering with a driver’s training school to help participants earn their licenses.
“We have other construction association partners that we’re working with to help them further develop construction skills,” says Fulton.
“Hopefully we will then help them get their first jobs. Even after a student continues into apprenticeship, we plan for The Shift team to continue to provide mentorship and funding support for tuition if it’s needed.”