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.