This chapter presents a promising practice case study of an innovative training and employment program from Vancouver, British Columbia.
ACCESS BladeRunners is an innovative Vancouver-based program that supports homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 15 and 30 through a comprehensive training and support program that focuses on creating pathways to jobs in the construction industry. The core goal of the program is to provide young people with the support and resources they need to overcome the difficulties and barriers in their lives that prevent them from obtaining, and maintaining, meaningful long-term employment. ACCESS BladeRunners has quickly emerged as one of the key youth assistance programs in Vancouver. More than just an employment placement program, ACCESS BladeRunners provides its participants with education, job training, and access to an extensive and comprehensive support structure. Employing a client-centered, individualistic approach, ACCESS BladeRunners tailors the program to meet the specific needs and challenges of each youth.
One of the key strengths and unique features of ACCESS BladeRunners is the degree to which attention is paid to embedding Aboriginal cultures, practices, and traditions within the program (approximately 90% of participants are of Aboriginal descent). Aboriginal youth face increased barriers to employment, such as inadequate housing, family breakdown, addiction and/or mental health issues, involvement with the criminal justice system, and/or educational disengagement. ACCESS BladeRunners recognizes the role that community and family play in the lives of Aboriginal youth, and thus have structured the program in a way that is simultaneously respectful and supportive. Their model gives Aboriginal youth a chance at establishing a career and a new life, and features an environment that is positive, supportive, and understanding.
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