March 26, 2013
Canadian employers central to new Canada Job Grant
Canada’s new Canada Job Grant unveiled in this year’s federal budget has one clear focus — connecting skills training with employers and jobs for Canadians, says federal finance minister Jim Flaherty.
“There are too many jobs that go unfulfilled in Canada because employers can’t find workers with the right skills,” stated Flaherty in his 2013 federal budget speech. “Meanwhile, there are still too many Canadians looking for work.”
Job creation and training plays a critical role in Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013. A new Canada Job Grant, tackling apprenticeship harmonization and reform of the Temporary Foreign Worker program are all planned.
“Training in Canada is not sufficiently aligned to the skills employers need. Or, to the jobs that are actually available,” said Flaherty. “For the first time, the Canada Job Grant will take skills-training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong…in the hands of employers and Canadians who want work.”
The grant will provide a possible $15,000 or more per person, including a maximum federal contribution of $5,000 matched by provinces/territories and employers. The federal government estimates that upon full implementation the new grant program will provide nearly 130,000 Canadians each year with access to training at eligible institutions, including community colleges, career colleges and trade union training centres.
Businesses with a plan to train unemployed and underemployed Canadians for an existing job or a better job will be eligible to apply for the grant. This element of the grant framework is important, says the Canadian Construction Association (CCA).
“Overall, we certainly like the intent and we like the direction it is taking,” says Bill Ferreira, CCA’s director of government relations and public affairs. “It is one that involves the employer which is absolutely critical in the training process.”
The grant will be introduced by negotiating a renewal of the $500-million-per-year Labour Market Agreements with Canadian provinces and territories in 2014-15.
The government also outlined a plan to increase opportunities for apprentices by working with provinces and territories to examine the use of practical tests as a method of assessment and to harmonize requirements. The government will provide $4 million over three years to help fund this initiative.
Ferreira says he is encouraged to see that the federal government wants to dedicate some effort to apprenticeship harmonization nationwide.
“It makes very little sense to have different requirements across the country for different types of skilled trades. Essentially the curriculum and standards are the same — it basically does not make any sense any more for some provinces to certify some trades while others don’t,” he said.
“We’d like to see a system where you see national harmonized standards for apprenticeship, training and certification. It will increase the ability of many of our workers to move from region to region to where the jobs may be.”
Flaherty added that federal government “will ensure that government contracts and funding for infrastructure and maintenance support the employment of apprentices.”
When it comes to foreign labour being integrated in Canada’s labour stream the federal government has committed to continuing working with provinces, territories and stakeholders “to improve the foreign credential recognition processes,” according to budget 2013 documents.
The federal government also indicates it will take action to reform Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program in order to “help unemployed Canadians get back to work and ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs.” A detailed plan is expected in the coming months but the government commits to:
• Increase employer recruitment efforts to hire Canadians before they will be eligible to apply for temporary foreign workers, including increasing the length and reach of advertising.
• Assist employers who legitimately rely on temporary foreign workers, due to a lack of qualified Canadian applicants, find ways to ensure that they have a plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.
• Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to restrict the identification of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the Temporary Foreign Worker process.
• The federal government also proposes to introduce user fees for employers applying for temporary foreign workers through the labour market opinion process so that these costs are no longer absorbed by taxpayers.
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