Staff Training

Supports to Success

Train for Trades uses an Intensive Support Model (ISM) to provide 24/7 support to existing (and past) participants. During the day, support is provided by the Youth Support Worker on the job site and by the Youth Supports Coordinator as needed for non-job related issues (access to appointments, advocacy, support with criminal justice system/health/child welfare etc.)

If you had a medical appointment, if you had court for some reason, or family court, dentist, doctor, food bank, any of those things. If you were [working] somewhere else you would probably have to do that before work or after work or you would probably lose your job over it. If you got three court appointments in a month, your employer is probably going to say ‘I don’t need you cause you’re losing too much time’. For our support program if you have…something that you need to deal with, we’re gonna support you here, and we’re gonna provide a ride to the doctor, pick up from the doctor.” — Joni King, Youth Support Worker, Train for Trades 

Support, beyond addressing personal issues, also includes help applying for funding for school or for school itself (including conducting market research to determine the best program/school). T4T staff also support the youth after they are laid off from the program to apply for Employment Insurance.

In addition, staff are provided with work phones so that youth have a way of contacting them directly after hours.  The support ranges from something that can be addressed in a text message or phone call to a serious issue that requires in-person staff support. A 6-week review conducted in the fall of 2013, found that there was an average of 5 or 6 calls/texts per staff each week. Staff are not paid for time spent dealing with these issues unless a significant amount of time is required, in which case they can arrange time off in lieu with approval from the Coordinator. 

If you’re looking to get on the right path, if you took a wrong turn somewhere down the road and you want to get back on the right path and be successful, it’s definitely the place to go. The huge support, the support here alone is wicked. If you have any kind of problem, anything, they’ll help you here and do whatever they’re capable of doing for you. The construction part of it, the working part of it yes, but the support here alone is wicked. It really helps you a lot.” — Dylan, age 22, Tier 3 participant, Train for Trades

Youth meet with the Youth Supports Coordinator every two weeks to check-in and follow-up on any outstanding support issues. As part of the Intensive Support Model they provide support individually on an “as-needed” basis.

If there is a need for counselling services or other support, youth can be referred internally within Choices for Youth, or externally to another youth service agency. Two youth are currently receiving in-house counselling through Choices for Youth. 

Train for Trades does not use a formal case management system. Following the very detailed initial intake and assessment, they document youth’s progress and supports in individual case files using Word.

When youth are involved with other service agencies, joint agency meetings are held to ensure the provision of wraparound services. These other agencies may maintain files using other systems and hold ongoing assessments.

A requirement of funding is the use of ARMS (Accountability Resource Management System), however this tool only flags employment & training.

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

The support available to youth throughout the program is exceptional yet also necessitates a low staff to client ratio (Train for Trades has a ratio of about 1 staff to 1.5-2 youth). Agencies need to consider the level of staffing they can afford to maintain and allow that to determine the level of support they can provide to youth. It will not be possible for all agencies to provide such an intensive support level for youth. The use of referrals to other agencies is important to help provide sufficient support when working with high-risk youth. Case conferences are key to ensure wraparound supports for the youth.

The after-hours support available at T4T is admirable and yet can clearly present challenges for staff. A shared roster of on-call duties may create the most flexibility for programs that wish to implement this level of support. That would give staff a bit more freedom and time off while also ensuring that youth always have access to staff support.

We do recommend the use of a case management program to ensure the smooth collection of data and reporting to funders, as well as to easily identify trends. We also recommend ongoing assessments to track client progress.

In the Youth Transitional Housing Toolkit, we discuss Efforts to Outcomes, which is one example of a good case management program; there are many others. In that toolkit we also highlight case plans, which further enables accurate data collection and consistency in reporting. If you are thinking of implementing a case management program, we encourage you to look at these resources.

There are also two case management tools – Youth Engagement Scale (YES) and Outcomes Star – that are tied to case planning and embedded within the case management software. There are multiple tools available and agencies may choose to create their own; the key is having tools at hand and training staff in their use.

GED

Choices for Youth recognizes that education is a key component of reducing youth homelessness. According to Corey Foley, Youth Supports Coordinator, the average youth interviewed for an assessment has a Grade 6 education. Beginning in the second year of operation, Train for Trades began providing access to a GED instructor. This allows the majority of youth to obtain their high school equivalency while in the T4T program.

82% of the 700 young people who walked through our doors (Choices as a whole) last year don’t have high school completion and are not in school. That’s a massive number and a massive barrier for our young people. That doesn’t get into the number of people who have literacy issues and all that stuff, that’s purely based on not in school, didn’t finish high school. So we realized somewhere along the way while we were offering this incredible training opportunity and employment experience and support, but ‘Hold on now, but if they come out of this without a high school at least an equivalency, if not higher, their options are still incredibly limited.’ Because now not only do they have all this training and employment and skills, they have at minimum a high school equivalency. They can use it to get into post-secondary. They can use it to get a job because most jobs come with minimum high school completion.  It was a real quick learn for us in terms of, ‘Hmm, all this is going to be for naught if they can’t do anything with it, because of an educational barrier.’ That’s a critical component. And offer it right on site, take off the tool-belt, go learn for a couple hours, put the tool-belt back on, go back to work. It’s huge.” — Sheldon Pollett, Executive Director, Choices for Youth

As Sheldon mentions, access is embedded into the program in a way that helps improve opportunities for success:

  • The GED training is part of the core program and youth are mandated to take part in the classes.
  • Train for Trades hires a part-time instructor (a retired teacher) who understands the unique and diverse needs the youth bring to the GED training.
  • The instructor comes to the job site twice a week during work hours. Youth do not have to go elsewhere after hours to compete the classes.
  • Youth do not lose income because they are taking part in the course and they do not have to pay for the training themselves.

Other GED programs are often full-time for a set period of time, which makes it challenging for youth to maintain employment while studying. Dylan, a Tier 3 participant, emphasizes this point: “I wanted to go apply to go back to school but I couldn't do it because I couldn’t afford to go to school five days a week and not work when I have a small child. I come here I was able to go to work, get my high school and get ready for college all in one. So it was perfect.”

Thirty-four youth attempted the GED through Train for Trades and 33 (97%) were successful. Three youth obtained Adult Basic Education (ABE), which is similar to the GED but prepares the recipient for future academic training.

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

As discussed in the Youth Employment Overview, there is a strong link between educational attainment and employment status. The way in which Train for Trades supports youth to obtain their GED is commendable because the educational component is embedded as a critical part of the overall employment program. Since a number of youth want to move on to post-secondary education, obtaining their GED is critical.

This is a critical support component of the T4T program. Because one of the goals of the program is to enable youth to access post-secondary education having the embedded GED program really helps make that a realistic possibility. We encourage other youth employment programs to embed education as a key aspect of their programming and to ensure that youth have easy access to the necessary supports. 

While Train for Trades does not have a formal housing component included in the program, Choices for Youth offers various forms of housing support including a shelter for young men and various transitional housing programs. If a youth identifies that housing is an issue then the Youth Supports Coordinator will work with the youth to help them obtain housing through CFY or independently in the community. 

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

A lack of housing is an obvious barrier to successful participation in an employment program. An agency does not have to be a housing provider, but it should develop partnerships with landlords or housing providers in order to assist youth who run into problems. Additionally, programs should prepare to adjust their rules to help youth access long-term housing. If a youth needs to meet curfew or attend meetings at a shelter, the program should adjust the youth’s hours. Programs may also need to assist youth with a housing search, including computer or telephone access, time off to view an apartment etc.

Train for Trades youth built 'The Lilly' which houses program participants.
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Train for Trades youth built 'The Lilly' a transitional housing program for youth. 'The Lilly' is a transitional housing project built as the pilot initiative for Train for Trades.

Harm reduction is an approach that works to “meet people where they are at” when providing services. It usually refers to strategies aimed at reducing the risks and harmful effects associated with substance use and addictive behaviours.  Harm reduction is often viewed negatively because of its link to substance use, but harm reduction approaches are used on a daily basis by the general population: hand washing, seat belts in cars, crosswalks and bike helmets.

In social services work, harm reduction approaches work to reduce harm, while complete abstinence may or may not be the goal.  When there is a lack of desire or ability to stop using substances the main focus becomes reducing harm. For example, a needle exchange project helps eliminate the need for injection drug users to share needles.

The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse has created five key principles for harm reduction. These are:

  • Pragmatism
  • Humane Values
  • Focus on Harms
  • Balancing Costs and Benefits
  • Priority of Immediate Goals

Train for Trades works with extremely high-risk youth who may have histories in one or more of the following areas: homelessness, poverty, non-completion of high school, unemployment, substance use and criminal justice system involvement.  By meeting youth where they are at and working with them through the provision of supports helps them succeed. While safety provisions mean a youth cannot work while under the influence, they will not be fired immediately. They will be sent home without pay and the Youth Supports Coordinator will discuss the situation with the individual. If a youth needs to attend substance abuse counselling they will be supported to do so. In some cases, a youth may be able to exit the program to attend a rehab facility and then return.

Similarly, youth who have histories with the criminal justice system are supported to work through their legal challenges. This could include time off for court appointments. Staff may advocate for youth or attend court with them to provide support.

In many youth programs, and certainly in many jobs, youth needing time off for appointments such as these would not only not be supported to attend, but may be fired for missing work. The harm reduction approach that T4T utilizes therefore helps keep youth employed while also allowing them to deal with their issues. 

Youth-serving social agencies, and indeed, many social service organizations often look at clients as “people with problems”. Staff ask “what’s wrong with this person?” or “How can I fix this person?” The point of origin in service-delivery is therefore based in weakness and creates an imbalance of power between the service provider and the client. Expectations for success are lowered and the client is disempowered.

Hammond and Zimmerman say that “McCaskey (2008) outlines a deficit cycle (see below) to explain the perspective that if we understand a problem, all we need to do is find an expert to analyze it then find a prescription that will fix it. This fo­cus starts with a ‘needs assessment’ as it is believed that if it can be determined as to what is wrong and work out what the needs are we will know what needs to be done. However, this often leads to simplistic and narrow solutions that rarely address the real issues in the long term”.

The Deficit Cycle

The Deficit Cycle
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A strength-based approach on the other hand, says “What’s right with this person?” It looks at each individual as someone with power and the ability to change their own circumstances. It recognizes that every person has strengths and abilities and looks to see how those skills can be enhanced.

Strength-based approaches emphasize the saying “the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem”. 

The Strengths-Based Cycle

The strengths-based cycle
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 “The strengths-based cycle ... begins with a more holistic focus that includes an emphasis on a person’s strengths and resources (internal and external) in the process of change. When challenges are experienced, problems and issues are acknowledged and validated, and strengths are identified and highlighted. This strengths ex­ploration changes the story of the problem as it creates positive expectations that things can be different and opens the way for the development of competencies”.

The principles of strength-based practice are:

  1. “An absolute belief that every person has potential and it is their unique strengths and capabilities that will determine their evolving story as a well as define who they are – not their limitations (not, I will believe when I see – rather, I believe and I will see).
  2. What we focus on becomes one’s reality – focus on strength, not labels – seeing challenges as capacity fostering (not something to avoid) creates hope and optimism.
  3. The language we use creates our reality – both for the care providers and the children, youth and their families.
  4. Belief that change is inevitable – all individuals have the urge to succeed, to explore the world around them and to make themselves useful to others and their communities.
  5. Positive change occurs in the context of authentic relationships – people need to know someone cares and will be there unconditionally for them. It is a transactional and facilitating process of supporting change and capacity building – not fixing.
  6. Person’s perspective of reality is primary (their story) – therefore, need to value and start the change process with what is important to the person – not the expert.
  7. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they are invited to start with what they already know.
  8. Capacity building is a process and a goal – a life long journey that is dynamic as opposed to static.
  9. It is important to value differences and the essential need to collaborate – effective change is a collaborative, inclusive and participatory process – ‘it takes a village to raise a child’”.

Train for Trades staff recognize the unique capacity of each youth and focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses. While they support youth through challenges, they also show youth what they are capable of. Many of the youth and staff talked about how great it felt to be giving back to the community and to help tenants reduce energy costs. 

Spend a day in a basement and see how well people picked off the street basically –people who weren’t prior really going anywhere—how well they do what they do in those basements. I came in, I had no training, no experience doing what I’m doing. And within days I was getting things done like a professional!” — Matthew, age 21, Tier 1 participant, Train for Trades

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

Some youth-service agencies choose to base their work in a number of theoretical underpinnings or to use specific theoretical approaches in dealing with youth support. Train for Trades does this to a certain extent with their focus on strength-based and harm reduction approaches, although these are less “theory” and more “ways of doing the work”. That said, it is likely that the Youth Support Workers and the Youth Supports Coordinators utilize a number of theories in their day-to-day work unknowingly. Often, academics develop theories that those involved in the trenches just consider to be part of everyday work.

The harm reduction and strength-based approaches are very integral to the work that Train for Trades does. They are a very pragmatic and youth-based way of doing the work and this is likely an important part of T4T’s success.

For a more extensive look at how theory can be embedded in the work, approaches to youth, case management and evaluation look at the Theories to Support the Work section of the Youth Transitional Housing Toolkit. Covenant House Vancouver and Toronto use a number of theories in their interactions with youth in their programs.

Choices For Youth/Train for Trades contracts with the Carpenters Millwrights College to provide basic safety training for the youth in a number of key areas including:  Fall Protection, Standard First Aid, WHMIS, Powerline Hazards, Fire Extinguisher and Ramset gun training. This is about $2,000/youth in certificates, which is also beneficial for youth who go on to pursue future training or careers in similar skilled trades industries.

The provincial government’s Occupational Health and Safety Act dictates what employers must do to help keep their employees safe and to prevent illnesses and accidents on the job. This includes emergency signage, development of evacuation procedures, eye wash stations, fall protection, risk awareness and the development of other relevant occupational health and safety guidelines.  Several staff and youth form the Occupational Health and Safety committee and receive additional training to support their participation.

All youth are trained in PPE standards. They must show up each and every day fully equipped (i.e. appropriate clothing, safety glasses, CSA approved work boots, hard hat). Failure to do so means that the youth is sent home and not paid for the day. Youth are supported to purchase their PPE upon entry into the program, which is helpful as they make the transition from unemployment or part-time (and often unrelated) work to full-time construction work. While PPE is a proper safety standard, youth and staff explained how safety requirements are much higher at Train for Trades than at other places they have worked.

One [rule] is big…safety, we’re all about safety. That’s our main thing, we’re all about safety, safety, safety.  You can’t go working without your protective equipment or anything like that; that just never happens, there is no go.  There’s other companies out there I’ve been working for for years, they don’t even ask you to wear so much as a pair of safety glasses.  Here, it’s mandatory which is wicked because it’s so dangerous. Even something as simple as having to wear steel-toe boots all the time.  There’s companies out there you can just wear sneakers if you wanted to and you could break your feet, you could get something in your eye.  Just a hard hat, just a simple thing like that.” —Dylan, age 22, Tier 3 participant, Train for Trades

Train for Trades has had its Certificate of Recognition™ (COR™) accreditation from the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association (NLCSA) since 2010. Designed for the construction industry, COR™ is a health and safety certification. “The program is designed to assist companies in the development and maintenance of a company-wide health and safety management program. Firms receive accreditation upon completion of COR™ training, development and implementation of a company-wide safety program, a comprehensive hazard assessment, and internal and external safety reviews. Specifically, the COR™ Program helps construction companies understand OH&S legislation, and employer and worker rights and responsibilities. Understanding these rights and obligations can also help firms avoid liability and ensure due diligence” (NLCSA COR™ website).

COR™ status is required to bid on any provincial government contract and many other organizations (public and private sector) also require it, including the City of St. John’s, Newfoundland Labrador Housing Corporation, Memorial University, Eastern Health, Nalcor Energy and Newfoundland Power. 

The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission of Newfoundland Labrador has an employer incentive program called PRIME. The practice incentive component of this provides a 5% refund to recognize employers who have good OH&S practices. Completion of COR™ can help a construction industry employer meet their PRIME requirements

Well safety is our big thing. We are all about safety.  We want everyone to go home with what they came in with…fingers, toes. That's why I emphasize there's nothing about speed with us. When I built houses it was all about the faster you can get it done the more money that can be made. We don't emphasize that here. We want these young people to learn. We want to take the time to learn. There's nothing that comes first rather than safety. Safety is the main thing. It's what we do for sure. Learning comes after the safety piece too, and learning about safety obviously, and the way to do it properly. When I was in this industry no one was looking out for you. It wasn't a big emphasis on things you know. And these days I want young people to go out into this industry and know the proper ways to be safe so they can get through their work days in a safe matter.“ —Ronnie O’Neill, Site Manager, Train for Trades

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

Obviously, safety needs to be a critical component of any project working with vulnerable youth and particularly for a construction program. The focus that Choices for Youth puts on safety in its Train for Trades program, however, is exceptional. 

Having COR™ status is useful in a couple of ways. From an organizational viewpoint it makes Train for Trades more viable as a company because it allows them to bid for a greater number of projects. They would not have their contract with Newfoundland Labrador Housing if it was not for their COR™ accreditation. It also proves to the youth the seriousness with which Train for Trades takes safety.

COR™ also makes up the bulk of Train for Trades’ policies. Rather than having separate safety policies, youth at T4T are required to meet the mandates established by COR™. This means that they operate in a professional-level environment, which will help them transition to mainstream employment. For the youth, their knowledge of and experience with COR™ is something they can put on their resume to make them more marketable to future employers.

Carpenters Millwrights College (CMC) is a private training college established in 1996 and owned by the Carpenters Union, Local 579 and the Millwright Union, Local 1009. Choices For Youth/Train for Trades contracts with CMC to provide basic safety training for the youth in a number of key areas including: Fall Protection, Standard First Aid, WHMIS, Powerline Hazards, Fire Extinguisher and Ramset gun training.

Originally this training was done in a single block of a couple weeks, but is now spread out to accommodate the revolving entry dates of the program.

It is very important for them to come and have some sort of formal training before going to a construction site. Construction sites are very dangerous. They need to be cognizant of how they can get hurt, so we focus a lot of the training on safety…by not doing an introductory level training, you're putting youth at risk by having their first introduction to a jobsite being on the jobsite. They really need to prepare for what they're getting into so they're safe.” —Kelly Power, Director of Carpenters Millwrights College

The housing arm of the provincial government Newfoundland Labrador Housing Corporation was established in 1967 and reports to the Minister Responsible for Housing. Its mandate is “to develop and administer housing assistance policy and programs for the benefit of low to moderate income households throughout the province.” In 2013-2014, 15,046 households received direct assistance through the various social housing programs, including public affordable rental housing, rent supplements, subsidized mortgages, residential energy efficiency program etc. NLHC directly owns and operates 5,588 residential rental properties throughout the province. It is in these units that the Train for Trades program primarily operates. (NLHC 2013-2014 Annual Report).

NLHC has two programs that Train for Trades works under. One is the Modernization and Improvement (M&I) program, which works to upgrade the condition of social housing stock. The second program involves basement retrofits, which are part of the Heat Subsidy Program (discussed in the section on Energy Poverty).

“It’s the right thing to do. You’re helping your tenants, you’re helping your organization in the long run because you may be reducing your renovations and repairs. And preventing mould and these sorts of things. You’re also helping the kids that are most vulnerable and at risk. If we can get them on the right path, then it’s all worth it in the end. It’s the right thing to do for any community in my mind.” —Dennis Kendell – Regional Operations Executive Director, Newfoundland Labrador Housing Corporation.

CUPE Newfoundland Labrador has 60 different employer groups representing over 6,000 workers. Local 1860 represents the workers at NLHC. The union has played a positive partnership role by supporting the development of the Train for Trades program. Approximately 60% of work at NHLC is contracted out, and as a result the union does not oppose the work that the youth are doing for NLHC.  The basement retrofits specifically were continually put off by NLHC due to more emergent issues.

While in some ways this sounds like a minor role, it is a very key and important one. The union could have blocked the project from getting off the ground if they had been at risk of losing work themselves. Choice for Youth met with union staff and members several times to educate them about the project and developed a cooperative partnership that allows the work to go forward at no risk to the union.

The union represents “the working unions that youth who complete the Train for Trades program will be looking to join. CUPE’s support of the program, assistance during the training stages, and placement of youth following the program, have been vital to participant success and will continue to factor heavily in the long-term feasibility of Train for Trades” (Canadian Homelessness Research Network, 2013). 

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

Developing solid partnerships are key to success. Train for Trades built their partnerships by providing upfront information and education about the types of youth their serve, the goals of the program and what the partnership would look like. 

Partnerships add to the credibility and future sustainability of programs; this is particularly true for a new program. The visible show of support from others is often key to obtaining government grants.  

CFY/T4T evolved their partnerships over the years as the program stabilized. For example, in the beginning NLHC provided all sub-contractors and supplies; T4T does this on their own now. But they do still provide support beyond what they would provide to a mainstream construction company. For example, during each neighbourhood project NLHC leaves one unit empty for T4T to use as their headquarters.

They have signed Memorandums of Understanding that outline the roles for each partner. This is very helpful in reducing confusion and conflict. 

Train for Trades staff complete several training courses that are required for their COR™ certification. These include Standard First Aid, Fall Protection, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), Power-line Hazard, Ramset, Asbestos Abatement and Fire Extinguisher training. These courses are taught at the Carpenters Millwrights College and are the same courses the youth take when beginning work.

T4T staff also complete training required by Choices for Youth including: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), which is taught by staff at C4Y and Non-Violent Crisis Intervention and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community (LGBTQ) training, which are taught by community members.  Other training is completed based on the interests of the staff.

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

While most staff employed at Train for Trades and other youth-serving agencies are usually graduates of a college or university program for Child and Youth Workers (or a similar field of study) it is important that certain training is provided centrally for all staff. This helps create a unified perspective and can explain how a specific issue or area is dealt with by the agency. While colleges and universities cover the topics generally, the agency can drill down on a specific topic and explain its relevance to staff.

We recommend that agencies working with homeless or at-risk youth offer training on as many of the following topics as possible with a specific focus on youth:

  • Homelessness 101 (with a specific focus on homeless youth)
  • Standard First Aid and CPR
  • Harm Reduction
  • Working with People with Mental Health Issues/Addictions/Concurrent Disorders
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Trauma Informed Care/Service Provision
  • Working with Victims of Violence
  • Self-Care for People in Helping Professions/Stress Management
  • Case Management (and specific training on any case management software or tools)
  • Training on any theories or approaches used by the agency
  • Communication and Active Listening
  • Conflict Resolution
  • LGBTQ and Gender Non-Conformity
    • Crisis Response and Management
    • Non-Violent Crisis Intervention
    • Understanding and Managing Aggressive Behaviour
    • Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression
    • Suicide Risk Assessment/Intervention or ASIST
    • Foundations to Criminal Justice
    • Measuring Success/Evaluation Strategies
    • Sex Workers and Victims of Human Trafficking

Job-specific training (such as the safety training T4T has their staff complete) is also important. Other trainings may be relevant as well depending on an individual’s role within the staff team (i.e. leadership, supervision, team-building). The Toronto Hostels Training Centre provides a very in-depth list of courses available

 

The intermeshing of Train for Trades as a program within the larger Choices for Youth agency means that some staff serve multiple functions or programs in addition to Train for Trades, while others work only for T4T. At the same time, some positions that are CFY staff, support the work of T4T, such as communications, development, and financial administration.

It is also important to remember that all youth are paid and in Tier 3 are actual employees of CFY. 

In the Train for Trades program there are 8 positions that work directly with youth on a day-to-day basis – the Program Coordinator, the two Youth Supports Coordinators, the four Youth Support Workers and the Site Manager. This is a ratio of 2.5 youth per staff member.

The Program Coordinator is responsible for the overall administration and delivery of the Train for Trades Program to ensure that the philosophy, goals and objectives are met. This individual works closely with all partners and funders and is responsible for developing and writing budgets and reports to provide program accountability. They have responsibility for staff support and coordination, including recruitment, hiring, orientation, supervision and evaluation. They manage the Human Resource requirements for youth participants, including recruitment, screening, training, evaluation, retention and termination. 

The Administration Support Worker provides support to the Program Coordinator. This person is responsible for the procedural administration of the program, including maintaining documentation for Certificate of Recognition™ and Occupational Health and Safety regulations, scheduling meetings, maintaining a filing system, inventory control, petty cash and expense claims, database maintenance and maintaining youth support documentation. 

There are two Youth Supports Coordinators, one who works with Tier 1 youth and one who works with Tier 2 and 3 youth. This reflects the decreased need for support as the youth move through the Tier process. The Youth Supports Coordinators work in conjunction with the Youth Support Workers to determine if youth have additional program or service needs. While they have some administrative and program responsibilities that overlap with the Program Coordinator and Administration Support Worker, their roles differ in terms of the level of support that they provide to the youth themselves. They serve as the primary youth advocate and youth representative for mandatory services. They develop letters for youth (income support, justice system) as needed and assist youth with medical appointments, EI claims, post-secondary applications and skills development funding. They are available to support youth outside of work hours and to provide therapeutic interventions in times of crisis.

There are four Youth Support Workers split between the youth involved in basement retrofits (primarily Tier 1 youth) and the youth in the Modernisation and Improvement (M&I) program (primarily Tier 2 and 3 youth). They assist the Coordinator and Project Manager in developing an individual case plan for each youth. They work directly with youth using an intensive support model. They provide supervision to youth on the job and ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn at all times and safety standards are followed. 

The Site Manager has overall responsibility for the construction schedule and on-site work including Retrofits, M&I and private construction contracts. They coordinate inspections and the work of subcontractors, and order materials, ensure Occupational Health and Safety standards and Certificate of Recognition™ requirements are met. The site manager mentors the Youth Support Workers in appropriate site-specific skills. 

GED Instructor: Provides instruction and support to youth seeking to obtain their GED. This individual is a retired teacher who is hired on contract to support youth. Lessons are provided onsite during the workday and youth are paid for their time.  

Manager of Social Enterprise: This individual helps Choices for Youth develop a range of social enterprise initiatives, including that of Train for Trades. 

Train for Trades also has its own sub-contractors (previously provided by Newfoundland Labrador Housing Corporation). One of the unique features of the sub-contracting partnership is that if a youth is interested in a particular field (i.e. plumbing or electrical) they can shadow the sub-contractor when they are on site to learn more about it. This can help a youth make an informed decision about whether to pursue that as a career option.

“They’ve got their own sub-contractors, their own electricians and their own plumbers. The stage that the electricians and plumbers come into play is after you do the framing and an inspector comes in and inspects it.  Then an electrician or a plumber will come in and move the pipes and do up the boxes and all that stuff. So, when they come in to do that, if you want to go in for electrical or plumbing, they’ll set you up with the electrician for the day. He’ll bring you down into the basement and show you what he does and he’ll get you to do it. He’ll get you the hands-on training and get you the feel of it to see if you actually like that trade and if you want to go in for it. I was thinking about carpentry. Then when I got here, I actually got hands-on with carpentry. They were able to set me up [with an] electrician as well. So I was able to get hands on with both and that helped me decide over the two, which one I wanted to go with.” — Brad, age 22, Tier 2 participant, Train for Trades

Homeless Hub Thoughts:

Train for Trades has an incredibly low staff to client ratio (about 1 staff to every 2.5 youth roughly). This means that the cost per participant is high compared to many other programs. The level of staffing provided however, matches the level of support required in the Intensive Case Management process. It does make it difficult to sustain in the long run unless the project brings in enough revenue.

Programs may seek opportunities to partner with existing agencies to increase the level of support they can provide to participants. Alternatively, they may need to adjust their support goals to match their staffing ratio.

Table of Contents

Supporting Documents

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness acknowledges with thanks the financial support of The Home Depot Canada Foundation. Thanks to the staff, partners and service users (past and present) of Choices for Youth and Train for Trades who assisted in the development of the toolkit by taking part in interviews, providing data and resources or reviewing information.

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