Every year, around 1,000 young people in B.C. transition out of government care, losing their support system in the process.

But since 2012, the Construction Foundation of B.C. has been helping these young people with the tools and training they need to become successful, with a program called SHIFT.  Because it’s challenging for any young person to navigate life after high school, but it can be especially hard for those without family support.

Abigail Fulton is the executive director of the Construction Foundation of B.C.

“Our focus, and our mandate, is to help build the next generation of skilled workers” says Fulton.  “A lot of people know that we have skill shortages in the trades, really across North America, but in BC it’s particularly tough for a lot of industries.  Not just construction.  Manufacturing, automotive, forestry, resource…everybody’s looking for those skilled workers that are going to fill the positions for the baby boomers that are retiring quite quickly.”

Fulton also points out that “young people aren’t being trained to consider the trades.  Most young people in school today are funneled into university, and applied learning has really fallen by the wayside.

“It’s a tragedy for young people who are missing the opportunity to learn how to build things — to learn how to solve problems — to learn skills and abilities that are going to serve them well, wherever they end up in life.  Whether they become a tradesperson or a lawyer, these are things we all need to know” says Fulton.

And that’s where the Construction Foundation of B.C.’s SHIFT program can help.

“The SHIFT program tagline is: Moving from Care to Career” says Audrey Wilkinson, director of social development for the Foundation.

“A lot of kids that come out of foster care, or being in-care with government, they move into 19, suddenly they’re out on their own — they have no resources.  We work with other agencies who put on other programs that train for the construction trades for instance, or for other trades.”

The Construction Foundation of B.C. has approved 21 driving lesson grants so far.

Seann Wells from DriveWise B.C. points out the difference having a driver’s license can make.  “It opens up a whole new world. It’s a barrier if [young people] don’t have a license.  It’s a barrier to being employed, so to get a license just gets you anywhere, and opens up many doors.”

Organizing driving lessons, and covering the cost, is just one of many programs offered by SHIFT.

“We also support about 50 other young people right now with various programs, and other things that we’ve put them into.” says Wilkinson.

The Construction Foundation of B.C. relies 100 per cent on donations to cover costs for all these supportive programs.

“We get a lot of support through government contracts,” says Fulton, “and other charities like the Victoria Foundation, who very generously donated to get our SHIFT-From Care to Career program off the ground.”

Tamra is one of the many young people helped by the SHIFT program. “It’s incredible! I honestly don’t know how they coordinate everything!

“Think about it!  I’m just one teenager that they’re helping, and they help so many more, and to me that’s just mind-blowing!” says Tamra gratefully.

Audrey Wilkinson sums up the philosophy of Construction Foundation of B.C.’s SHIFT program.  “It’s great to see youth who, a lot of times have come from kind of traumatic backgrounds, be able to go on, and not just function, but thrive.”

Click here to learn more about the Construction Foundation of B.C.

Veronica Cooper