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.”
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.