As discussed in the Evaluation section, Train for Trades has not had a full formal evaluation since the first two years of operation. They intend to evaluate T4T as a social enterprise at the end of the first year. This will have two components: a financial evaluation and a programmatic evaluation.
The financial evaluation will be based on examining the success of T4T as a business model and creating a financial forecast for the next year. The programmatic evaluation will include qualitative research with youth and partners.
Homeless Hub Thoughts:
Train for Trades operated as a typical youth program for a number of years, with a high dependence on corporate and government grants. It developed a strong track record of success both on the youth support/employment side and on the construction end. As such, a decision was made to turn it into a social enterprise.
Running a social enterprise is a good way of doing business to reduce or eliminate reliance on outside funding for sustainability. While the move towards self-sustainability and the social enterprise model was fast-tracked, T4T and Choices for Youth had always intended to move in that direction.
It is important to note that in the new model:
- The level of youth support has actually increased. The staff to youth ratio moves from 2.5 to 1.6 staff for every youth. T4T has ensured that youth do not lose out by this restructuring.
- The changes are designed to make T4T more productive and more sustainable. Hiring a Project Manager with significant construction management experience not only will improve job performance but will increase the future employability of youth by giving them real world work experience.
- The program is designed to scale. If more contracts are obtained, it is easy to increase the number of staff and youth. If the existing number of contracts/workload are maintained, self-sufficiency is still a reality given the lower number of staff/youth.
- With its focus on social enterprise, it is possible that T4T will become a revenue generator – not just revenue neutral – allowing it to build a buffer zone for slower work climates, or to support expansion.
It is important to note however, the recommendation from staff at CFY/T4T is that agencies wanting to develop their own employment program consider a pilot project first and use the pre-2015/16 model to develop their program and figure out how best to make it successful.
We again emphasize the importance of evaluation, especially during such a transition period. An extensive external evaluation that includes both quantitative and qualitative assessment will really help establish the success of Train for Trades as it moves forward with its social enterprise model.