Local Businesses Support Vulnerable Youth Through Employment Program
Enjoy an all-you-can-eat German buffet and bottomless beer and wine, all while supporting a good cause, at the second annual Sasktober Fest fundraiser this Saturday. All funds raised will go toward the Employability Project — a pre-employment program aimed at connecting youth looking for job opportunities with local businesses.
Run by Street Culture Project, the program is in its second year and helps youth who come from difficult pasts overcome barriers.
“They generally have lacked strong role models for work ethic,” said Kim Sutherland, CEO of Street Culture Project. “Many are second-or-third-generation dependent on social assistance. So they don’t have natural role models that would give them first, a reflection of work ethic and second, ideas of what work looks like — the whole concept of going to work.”
Kevin Gamracy is a service manager at Young’s Equipment in Regina. Last year the company participated in the program, employing a youth approximately 18 years old. The initial placement was meant to last for three weeks, but ended up continuing for more than two months.
“It’s to give the kids a chance,” said Gamracy. “You can’t write everyone off right away.”
He said the young man started off in the wash bay, cleaning combines, tractors and sprayers and doing other little odd jobs. He then spent a couple of weeks working in the parts department — retrieving parts for customers and packing parts for shipping.
“He was willing to work,” said Gamracy. “My biggest thing with any employee is the willingness to try to work.” He said skills can be learned; motivation can’t be.
Approximately 20 youth were placed with various local businesses in the program’s first year, according to Mike Gerrand, director of operations for Street Culture Project. He said of those 20, 12 now have jobs and six are still in the program. Unfortunately two have been lost back to the street, but he said they are always welcome back to the program.
He said many of the youth come into the program with a variety of challenges including drug addiction, mental health concerns and criminal records — some coming directly out of jail. Stage 1 of the program is stabilization, which includes addressing those issues and building trust. From there, the youth join the “odd job squad,” doing odd jobs around the city like cutting lawns.
The youth are also coached on various life and employment skills, like how to wear a uniform and show up for work on time.
Stage 2 is placement with a local business and can last as few as three or four days or up to three months, depending on the business. Gerrand said approximately 10 local businesses participate.
“It’s important to note that we’re not dealing with widgets off a factory line here, these are human beings that have very complex needs and each one is different,” said Gerrand. “A cookie-cutter approach won’t work.”
He said the goal of the program is to help remove barriers and either gain employment or get the youth back in school.
“We provide a safe environment for people to choose change,” said Gerrand.
Participation by the businesses is purely voluntary. They receive no payment and do not pay the wages of the youth placed with them. Wages are paid by Street Culture Project and is the reason for Sasktober Fest, hosted by Bavarian-born Karl Fix. The more money raised, the more youth they can accept into the program.
For more information on the event, visit www.streetcultureproject.org.