New employment program unveiled

James McLeod
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Previous funding set to dry up

Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Shea speaks at a funding announcement at the College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s Wednesday. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Advanced Education Minister Joan Shea was at the College of the North Atlantic in St. John’s Wednesday to announce money for employment training, but with funding set to dry up in less than a year,

the future of the program is uncertain.

Shea was announcing $1.5 million for 12-week training and work experience programs at the college which will be aimed at income support clients and other people who have problems getting a job.

The money comes from the Labour Market Agreement, a federal pot of cash which the provinces divvy up. But that agreement — and the money that comes with it — expires in 2014.

Last spring, Ottawa announced that to renew the Labour Market Agreement, the Harper Government wants to redirect 60 per cent of the funding to the Canada Jobs Grant.

Instead of job training programs run by the provinces, Ottawa wants to kick in $300 million and the provinces match them with $300 million — money which would be given directly to employers who want to retrain their workers. Companies that get the money are expected to pay for a third of the retraining costs as well.

Last week, when premiers from across the country met in Ontario, they were none too impressed with the Canada Jobs Grant idea.

“If implemented, the proposed Canada Job Grant would effectively remove all of the funding for labour market agreement programming,” a joint statement issued by the premiers said.

“It would require provinces and territories to find more than $600 million in additional funding to maintain current labour market training programs for vulnerable people as well as funding for cost-matching of federal programs. Furthermore, it is unclear if employers, particularly small businesses, will participate.”

No negotiations

There have been no negotiations, and without some sort of agreement, it’s unclear what will happen in 2014.

On Wednesday, Shea said as far as she’s concerned, there are no changes coming.

“We would anticipate there’d be some negotiation of how changes would affect the province, but at this time we’re not aware of any

particular changes for how we’re going to administer this money,” she said.

“At this time,we haven’t been part of those negotiations so we certainly haven’t signed on to how things would change, so until we have the discussions and until we see something differently, it’s status quo.”

Shea said the new Sector Skills Employment Training is one where she’s been hearing from businesses that they’re having trouble finding workers.

“There are temporary foreign workers in some of the jobs that we’re targeting now, so we do know that there is demand in these areas and we do know that we have people who should be able to take advantage of these positions,” Shea said.

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons was in the back of the room for the news conference, and afterwards, he told reporters that it’s strange that the government is adding programs at CNA for students who only have Grade 9 education.

“We just went through a process where we completely gutted this college of adult basic education,” he said.

Nancy Healey, CEO of the Board of Trade was on hand at the announcement, and said that employers are having a tough time finding workers, and hopefully this program will help.

“We are creating jobs faster than our population can absorb, so that allows us the good fortune of ensuring everyone who wants to work and is capable of working to find jobs — welcoming Newfoundlanders and Labradorians back home, as well as people from other parts of Canada and around the world,” she said.

The program announced Wednesday will focus on employment in areas such as  retail sales, food services and building maintenance.

Organizations: CNA, Harper Government, Canada Jobs Grant.Instead Board of Trade

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada, Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Robert
    August 06, 2013 - 16:31

    Great now help me find a Tech Job or headhunter in St. John's so I can move back and get the hell out of Florida.

  • Lesley Dunn
    August 02, 2013 - 06:47

    We are interested to see that the "wide spread support" for the proposed Canada Job Program is coming in the form of media releases from organizational bodies that have "training budgets" and who hold the position of an “advocacy group” rather than a major employer. Community learning organizations working with low literate, low skilled, low employed and the unemployed are left with many questions, most centered around how they will fit into the revised labour market of which the Canada Job Grants Program plays and integral part. The Association of Nova Scotia Community Learning Organizations of which the Dartmouth Learning Network is a member is hoping that Minister Kenny will be able to provide answers to the following questions: On the Basis for the CJG program What hard data from Canadian businesses led to the creation of the CJG program and will this data be made publically available? What industries and learning organization were consulted that led to the creation of the CJG and away from the current LMA funding structure? What is the cost benefit of the CJG program and how does it relate to the current LMA? Will this information be made publically available? What are considered as “high-demand fields” which are the focus for the CJG program? It appears as though Community Adult Learning Organizations, currently funded under the LMA, are not considered "eligible training institutions" and therefore cannot provide training under the CJG program. Has the Federal government assessed the impact of this change on unemployed and under employed adults currently attending Community Adult Learning Organizations to upgrade their essential skills in order to join the labour market or get better jobs? If so, will this data be made available? If not, why not? On the Consultation Process and Design of the Program Will groups that represent Community Adult Learning Organizations from Nova Scotia be given a chance to participate in the formal consultation process (e.g. round tables) before critical decisions affecting their adult learners are taken? Will the federal government consider designating Community Adult Learning Organizations as "eligible training institutions" under the CJG design? If a provincial government decides not to participate in the CJG program will the federal government make equivalent funds available for programs tailor to suit the specific needs of that province? Will the federal government be willing to totally redesign the approach to the CJG program, in consultation with the provinces territories, business and learning organizations, should the majority of the provinces decide not to participate? On the Need to Address the Lack of Literacy and Other Essentials Skills While we recognize the need to improve the skills of Canadians in high demand fields this should not be done at the expense of the most vulnerable Canadians who lack requisite literacy and essentials skill needed to enter the labour market or obtain better jobs. Would the federal government, in consultation with the provinces, territories and learning organizations consider establishing a National Framework for literacy, learning and essential skills training? We are all in agreement that ensuring that every Canadian is attached to the labour market is essential to the growth and development of our country. We worry though that for 48% of Canadians who struggle with low literacy and are either low employed or unemployed, changes to the current Labour Market Agreement will leave them forever on the "outside looking in" when it comes to obtaining and retaining employment. We look forward to having our questions answered and to finding a way to ensure that everyone benefits from the new program. Lesley Dunn, Executive Director, The Dartmouth Learning Network Member, The Association of Nova Scotia Community Learning Organizations