Yukon MLA Ryan Leef says a contentious new federal job program will better support the needs of industry.
“The job grant itself has been widely supported and hailed as a great initiative from industry. They’re excited and happy to be involved in the process now, and define what those training needs are.”
Provincial and territorial leaders across the country have denounced the program as proposed, saying it will detract from successful job training initiatives for underserved people.
Here in the Yukon, federal labour market agreement funding has supported programs like Skookum Jim Friendship Centre’s youth employment centre, the Kwanlin Dun House of Learning and Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives’ Bridges employability program.
That funding was over $1 million for this fiscal year.
Under the proposed schedule for the Canada Job Grant roll-out, over four years that funding would be cut to $200,000.
An additional $300,000 would pay for the job grants themselves.
The idea behind the program is that the federal government, territorial government and an employer would each contribute up to $5,000 for the training of an employee or potential employee for an available job.
“It’s fairly well established that investment by employers into the training of their employees is a great way to improve retention and to improve morale and to improve an overall teamwork setting,” said Leef.
And it’s what industry has asked for, he said.
“The job grant had a number of consultations around it and industry here in the Yukon was able to provide feedback and input. So a large part of that has been built into this program, right across the country.”
But Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, says no consultation occurred that he is aware of.
“If there was consultation, it wasn’t with anyone here as far as I know. I would like to meet a person who was consulted.”
The Yukon already has a successful business training fund paid for by the federal and territorial governments and employers, said Karp.
“It’s very active. We have to meet almost every two weeks, we have to call the committee together, because we’re getting a lot of applications from business.”
And the Canada Job Grant would not pay for travel expenses, which can be a big cost for training in the Yukon, he said.
Leef said that Karp’s criticism of the program demonstrates a failure to acknowledge the full suite of job training programs that the federal government has brought to the territory.
That includes expanding community college campuses and investing in a mobile mine training simulator so that people do not have to travel, said Leef.
The existing business training program has some issues in terms of timing and access, and the Canada Job Grant is designed to be as flexible as possible, he said.
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