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Youth employment program receives provincial funds

Coordinator looks for local partnerships

More at-risk youth will have a chance at a better life as the Powell River BladeRunners program takes off with its share of $6 million of new funding.

Former Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation chief Walter Paul is heading up the program locally.

BladeRunners is an employment and skills training program that helps youth aged 15 to 30 take control of their futures and gain job and life skills in order to obtain sustainable employment. It was started in 1994 and has helped close to 7,000 youth.

Approximately 1,200 youth will participate in the program provincially this year and about 70 per cent will be aboriginal, according to the ministry of jobs, tourism and skills training.

The Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society (ACCESS) is one of three organizations in BC that has received funding to run the program in 29 communities through its partners. First Nations Employment Society (FNES) is the local partner running the program in Powell River.

Paul works as a job coach for FNES, and already provides programs designed to help people find long-term employment.

Nanaimo Youth Services Association ran the BladeRunners program in Powell River before the contract was given to ACCESS.

The program means that at-risk youth can access the supports they need to gain full-time employment in a range of industries.

Participants of the program will learn foundational skills in various trades, first aid, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and other marketable job skills.

Additionally, participants will be taught health and nutrition awareness, employment readiness skills, resumé writing and interviewing skills.

Paul said he’s unsure at this point how many intakes the local program will have this year because he’s in the initial stages of setting up the program and finding community partners to help out with job placements.

“Another part of the program is to get the clients practical hands-on experience which will help get them into long-term employment,” he said.

Participants of the program will receive minimum wage during the work experience portion.

“It’s quite a slow labour market, so getting jobs for these clients will be quite a task,” said Paul.

He hopes to be able to have placements at Tla’amin-owned businesses and other businesses in Powell River in all sectors.

“The whole workforce has changed,” said Paul. “More and more employers are looking for skilled labour and with so many skilled workers unemployed it only makes it more difficult.”

He said he sees this program as a stepping stone for youth to take on more education and gain more skills after they finish the program.

To qualify for BladeRunners applicants must not have filed an employment insurance claim in the last three years.

For more information about the program, readers can contact Paul at 604.831.1731 or visit Bladerunners online.

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