Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Let's put the job-grants idea to work

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While provinces debate the latest federal offer in the Canada Job Grant saga, employers and thousands of Canadians hoping for skills training sit on the sidelines wondering why "process" has become more important than results.

In its 2013 Economic Action Plan, the federal government created the Canada Job Grant. This initiative would support employers in their efforts to train future employees or existing ones needing new skills for new positions.

This is an innovative program designed to finally provide employers the levers they need to hire the employees they require to expand, create even more employment and grow our economy. It is a novel approach that recognizes governments do not have the monopoly on what would work in terms of job creation but rather helps those who actually create jobs increase their ability to grow.

The initial plan would have had the federal government use $300 million to pay a maximum of $5,000 per person for training, with the provinces putting in a maximum of $5,000 and employers the other third. The federal portion is coming from federal funds previously given to the provinces to operate programs the federal government no longer considers critical for various reasons. The new federal offer would have the provinces no longer required to put in their share of up to $5,000 per trainee, but as no new money would be in that program, the number of trainees would possibly be cut in half.

Since its introduction, the Canada Job Grant has been the focus of attacks based on process (lack of consultation) and optics (advertising). This shouldn't be. We should be focused on making it work, promoting such initiatives and creating partnerships between employers and post-secondary institutions such as career colleges that could train these employees.

Some employers are no longer waiting and have invested directly in training programs to hire more employees. Others have decided to move away from our country or not expand.

In an era when our economy is still fragile, when Canadians are still looking for work and when there is a growing skills gap in various sectors (trades, IT, health care, etc.), we should be focused on making initiatives like this work.

There will always be people criticizing any new initiative. But we know we need change. There's a growing skills gap that clearly exists in Canada despite some academics musing otherwise. There's an increasingly competitive global economy, and our workers need better training. There are governments that need to help people get back to work.

Let's go beyond the war of words. Let's move beyond the "my turf versus their turf." All people getting trained are taxpayers, and all employers creating jobs are also paying taxes -- to the same two levels of government involved in this dispute.

The National Association of Career Colleges has taken a strong and public stance: We support the Canada Job Grant. It makes sense. Workers need it. Employers want it. Our economy needs this boost.

 

Serge Buy is the chief executive officer of the National Association of Career Colleges.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2014 A9

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