8: Vancouver, Canada – BladeRunners
BladeRunners is an employment programme that helps 15-30 year olds with multiple barriers to employment find careers.69 The programme offers a training programme to prepare young people for job placements and 24 hour, 7 days a week support, as participants typically experienced problems outside working hours. The programme is funded primarily through provincial and federal government and agencies delivering the program have to obtain ‘matched’ funding.
BladeRunners began in Vancouver in 1994 in the construction industry and as a result of its success expanded to other areas in British Columbia and into other sectors, including customer service and multi-media production. Around 75 per cent of participants complete the training and gain employment.
Employer engagement is a key element of the programme. In order to find jobs for participants and establish links with firms, coordinators go out into the community and ‘sell’ the program to potential employers. Employers are not expected to enter into formal agreements beyond taking on a participant if they wish and are expected to treat them as any other employee.
The programme also devotes a lot of time to help participants overcome the barriers beyond skills/qualifications that are preventing them from finding and keeping a job, such as substance misuse, homelessness, transportation costs and legal issues. Coordinators all have strong knowledge of what support is available in their communities and refer participants to the appropriate resource. It provides breakfast and lunch, living allowances, travel tickets, tools, equipment and work gear to participants during training.
Support workers maintain contact through employment, which is cited as one of the significant factors contributing to the success of the programme. On the first day of work, a BladeRunners coordinator will bring the participant to the construction site and introduce him or her to the foreman, contractor or tradesperson, and to other BladeRunners. Over subsequent days, the coordinator will return to the site to ensure that all are satisfied with the placement. All those who start the programme can receive support up till they reach 31. As such, even if a participant comes back two years after receiving their initial training, BladeRunners will still provide them with job leads.