Youth Placements in Employment Social Enterprises

What is the project?

This three-year pilot (February 2016-January 2019) is evaluating the role of Employment Social Enterprises (ESEs) in supporting labour market transitions for youth in BC facing barriers to developing their career potential.

The project team is engaging WorkBC Centres, employers and social entrepreneurs in at minimum two regions on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland to generate temporary paid work placements in ESEs for barriered youth. Referrals of youth for ESE placements would come from WorkBC Centres while partnering mainstream employers would be involved in both the development and identification of ESE employment opportunities that would provide effective transitional experience and skill development for their prospective employees. Post-placement, the employer partners will be involved with interviewing youth to assess their job readiness and considering them for permanent positions in their workplaces.

The project aims to recruit at minimum 75 youth to participate in placements with local social enterprises, to be compared against the experiences of a similar number of youth in a comparison group that would not be offered ESE placements but will continue to access any WorkBC programs and services for which they are eligible.

What is the project trying to address?

The evaluation will examine the effectiveness of ESE paid placement opportunities in providing valuable employment experience as well as on-the job hard and soft skill training to increase the employability and potential long-term employment outcomes of youth participants.

This evaluation of this project will utilize a mixed methods approach to address two key research questions:

  1. What do employment service providers, employers, community groups, social entrepreneurs and others need to be doing to help identify and/or establish transitional ESE placements that benefit local youth facing significant labour market barriers?
  2. Do transitional placements in ESEs lead to improved outcomes for at-risk youth compared to conventional service delivery and referral options available through WorkBC employment service centres?

While there has been considerable research on the potential role of social enterprises in supporting job seekers’ transitions into the labour market, there is little rigorous evidence to establish the relative merits of this approach when offered within the context of more conventional employment programs and services. For a case to be made to expand support and investment to ESEs in policy and practice, further evaluation is required to speak to their relative effectiveness and cost efficiencies.

Who are the partners on the project?

The project represents a partnership between the BC Centre for Employment Excellence (CfEE) and the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria.

The CfEE is managing the pilot project and is responsible for meeting the overall planning, organization and reporting requirements of the study. The CfEE team is also conducting a multifaceted evaluation of the program. The CfEE is based in Vancouver and was created by the Government of British Columbia in 2012 to enhance the knowledge and development needs of the employment services sector and the employer community in BC on issues related to employment programs and practices.

The Community Social Planning Council is contributing knowledge subject matter expertise with respect to social enterprise capacity and development. It will also convene and facilitate youth employment networks in the Capital Region and create links to WorkBC Centres, mainstream employers as well as educational and training institutions. The Community Social Planning Council leads social, economic and environmental planning in BC’s Capital Region. It has more than 70 years’ experience engaging community members and organizations, businesses and government to research social issues and create sustainable solutions.

March 2017 Interim Report Now Available

If you would like to read more about the design and development of the project, we invite you to read the Interim Report that you can download here.


The pilot is being funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation’s Research and Innovation Fund.

For queries about this project or other research activities being undertaken by the BC Centre for Employment Excellence, please contact Shawn de Raaf, the CfEE Research Coordinator.