Wiarton Trades Program Empowers At-Risk Youth

by The Salvation Army in Canada

They are youth at risk―struggling, frustrated and uncertain about the future. But The Salvation Army’s Trades Start Program in Wiarton, Ont., is changing that.

“Trades Start, a 20-week course that teaches both hospitality and carpentry skills, serves youth who have fallen through the cracks,” says Scott Concordia, Program Coordinator. “Participants are often from unstable home situations, are high school drop outs and/or are unemployed. We help them get moving in the right direction.”

From Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., students ages 16-29 learn basic academic math, financial literacy, how to search for a job and build a resume. Students in the carpentry program learn how to measure, read drawings and receive information about the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Students in the hospitality class learn food handling, new recipes, safety, dishwashing and how to properly sanitize items.

20160210_111957“When I came to Trades Start I was sad, unemployed and struggled to afford food,” says Brittany, 24. “I wanted to learn things that would benefit me in the future. The skills I gained in the hospitality program improved my confidence and helped me get a job in a café. I feel great. My life is totally different now.”

Trades Start also operates in conjunction with the local high school, which treats it as a co-op program. Kristian earned his high school diploma while participating in the Trades Start Program (Carpenters Helper). He is now enrolled in a Carpenter’s Apprenticeship flex program at college. 

“I’d wake up in the mornings and say, ‘Yeah, I get to go to work,’’ says Kristian of Trades Start. “You get told what you have to do, what cuts you have to make, and then you do it. It’s pretty cool.”

“Over half of the youth in this area live in poverty,” says Concordia. “When young people are hopeless and lose focus it’s easy for them to get into trouble. Trade Start is a positive and caring environment that keeps them busy and builds confidence. A little help gives a lot of hope.”