Yukon approves Canada Job Fund

Yukon has signed onto a controversial federal job training program. The Canada Job Fund replaces other skills training programs.

Yukon has signed onto a controversial federal job training program.

The Canada Job Fund replaces other skills training programs. Yukon Education Minister Elaine Taylor joined ministers from across the country to denounce the program a year ago, saying that it would displace funding for proven programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Last fiscal year, more than a million dollars went to such programs in the Yukon.

Programs that have been supported through the federal labour market agreements in the past include Skookum Jim Friendship Centre’s youth employment centre, the Kwanlin Dun House of Learning and Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives’ Bridges employability program.

Now, after some negotiation, the Yukon has signed on to the new program.

The biggest change is the total allocation of funds to the territory.

The previous offer would have Yukon receive $500,000 annually. That amount has been doubled to a million.

The portion of the fund devoted to the business subsidy will increase over time, from 15 per cent the first year to 60 per cent the fourth.

But many criticisms with the Canada Job Grant itself have not been addressed.

Under the fund, governments of Canada and Yukon as well as the employer each contribute an equal share for training tuition and materials, up to a maximum total of $15,000.

The program will not cover travel expenses when training is not available in the Yukon.

“That’s an ongoing concern,” said Shawn Kitchen, assistant deputy minister for advanced education, in an interview this week. “It’s something that we approached the federal government on and unfortunately were not able to make any headway on it.”

Also, Taylor said last year that many small Yukon businesses may not be able to come up with the funds to participate in the program.

“For an individual business to come up with the $5,000 for one employee to train up to a different position, that’s a significant investment.”

A small concession has been made by Canada on that point: Now, if the employer is paying the employee wages during the training, those wages can be diverted to cover up to half of the employer’s portion of the bill for the training.

The Canada Job Grant replaces an existing business training fund that has been run in the Yukon by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

That program had been working really well, said Rick Karp, president of the chamber, yesterday.

Travel funds could be covered under that program, and businesses were only required to chip in 10 per cent of the training costs.

The chamber is “cautiously optimistic” that businesses will be interested in the new program, said Karp.

“We have to give it a chance,” he said.

“When Ottawa is telling the provinces and territories, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ what can you say? This is it. And they weren’t backing off of that. What choice do we have? We’re the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. What are we going to do? Fight with Ottawa?”

Training and development over the next couple years will be “absolutely critical” so that local businesses can build the capacity to compete with Outside contractors the next time the mining industry comes knocking, said Karp.

“We certainly hope that this is going to work.”

Yukon MP Ryan Leef and Taylor could not be reached for interviews this week.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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