Provinces press for training changes

Ottawa's new Canada Job Grant would leave lower-skilled workers and many small businesses behind, provincial employment ministers agree

Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond

The federal government’s new Canada Job Grant would leave lower-skilled workers and many small businesses behind, provincial employment ministers agree.

B.C. Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond joined her provincial counterparts in Toronto Tuesday to emphasize their worries that Ottawa’s new plan will take money from an effective network of retraining programs designed to fit local needs.

The Canada Job Grant is due to take effect in April, diverting millions in federal skills training funding to a three-way program that requires employers and provinces to match a $5,000 investment from an employer to upgrade a worker’s skills.

The provinces issued a joint report pointing out that “vulnerable clients” of provincial training programs don’t have jobs. With no employer to put up a share, they won’t qualify for the new program.

“The federal government has provided no evidence that the proposal would help workers or employers,” the report states. “However, it would divert funding from existing provincial and territorial programs that are delivering good results.”

Bond said federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney has agreed to meet with provincial ministers to hear their concerns. She said small businesses have also raised the alarm that Ottawa’s plan doesn’t work for them.

Provinces say full implementation of the Canada Job Grant would take $600 million a year out of current programs, particularly those for young people, disabled people, aboriginal people, recent immigrants, social assistance recipients, long-term unemployed and older workers.

Bond said one such B.C. program at risk is BladeRunners, which targets young aboriginal people.

Service providers funded by BladeRunners include:

• Cariboo Chilcotin Aboriginal Training Employment Centre Society in Williams Lake and Quesnel

• Ktunaxa Nation Council in Cranbrook, Kimberley and Creston

• Metis Nation B.C. in Abbotsford, Mission and Aldergrove

• Sto:Lo Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training in Surrey, Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Mission

• Nanaimo Youth Services Association in Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Courtenay and Comox

• Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council in Port Alberni and Ucluelet

• Coast Salish Employment and Training Society in Duncan, Nanaimo and Victoria

• Laichwiltach Family Life Society in Campbell River and Port Hardy

• Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association

• John Howard Societies in Kelowna and Victoria

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