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Job-training initiative shows early success

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Karl Anderson is the face of the provincial government’s new job-training program aimed at helping employment and income assistance participants find work.

The 18-year-old is one of two trainees working at Shoppers Drug Mart for six months through the revamped Manitoba Works! work-experience program. He started a month ago as a merchandiser stocking shelves and assisting customers. He’ll be hired as a store employee when the six months is up.

Through Manitoba Works!, the province provides a wage subsidy to employers to assist them with the cost of on-the-job training. The government has said it will spend $3 million over three years toward the program.

"I will be a better employee by the end of the six months," he said. "Before, I probably wouldn’t have known half the things I do now."

Amir Baksh, owner of two Shoppers Drug Marts In Winnipeg, said Anderson is one of two trainees at his stores working under Manitoba Works!

"The benefit to the store is that we have a employee that we know. We trained him. We can trust him. We know he’s reliable. So that we hire him we know what we are getting.

"It takes the guesswork out of hiring somebody who’s resumé you find on your desk on a Monday morning."

Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald rolled out the new work-experience program Thursday, and a second program to help social assistance recipients and other low-income Manitobans pay rent. Both were announced in the government’s spring budget.

Oswald said through Manitoba Works! community-based organizations in Winnipeg and The Pas will provide work experience to more than 250 EIA recipients, tailoring support to each individual participant and then line them up with on-the-job training placements.

Oswald said Manitoba Works! is part of the government’s plan to increase the province’s labour force by 75,000 workers by 2020.

Oswald also announced more details on the province’s Rent Assist program. To launch July 1, it’s a new financial benefit available to both social-assistance recipients and other low-income Manitobans. It will replace the existing EIA shelter allowance and RentAid programs.

People on EIA living in private rental accommodations will see increases of between $50 and $70 per month for shelter costs. Single individuals will now receive $435 dollars per month, compared with the previous $365 per month.

A new Rent Assist calculator will be available online next month to help Manitobans determine if they are eligible for Rent Assist, and their estimated benefit amount, she added.

Oswald also reconfirmed the government’s pledge that shelter benefits rates will increase over a four-year period to 75 per cent of median market rent for EIA participants.

Kirsten Bernas, research and policy adviser for advocacy group the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, welcomed the two programs.

"We still have a lot more to do," she said, adding the two programs will complement other efforts to help low-income Manitobans find proper housing and employment. "Together, these initiatives will help ensure that low-income Manitobans with barriers are in better position to access and succeed in training and employment opportunities."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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