Ontario given skills training boost

Intergovernmental agreements will provide aid for workers
By Marcel Vander Wier
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/16/2018

(Note: This article originally appeared in Canadian HR Reporter Weekly, our new digital edition for subscribers. Sign up today to make sure you don't miss future issues: www.hrreporter.com/subscribe.)

Thousands of Ontario workers are slated to benefit from a federal funding increase in the area of skills training. The federal government signed agreements with the province expected to provide aid for 180,000 more workers over six years.

Much of the supported programming is delivered through the Employment Ontario network, which aided about one million people — including 62,300 employers last year.

By 2023, the federal government is expected to invest nearly $20 billion of funding promised in the 2018 budget into federal-provincial agreements.

Ontario’s funding — provided through the new Workforce Development Agreement (WDA) and Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA) — marks a total increase of $800 million from the previous agreements. The agreements are meant to increase the jobs and skills training available — including training programs, work placements, employer-sponsored training, job search assistance, and career counselling.

Funding levels had not increased since labour market agreements first began to be negotiated by the federal government in 1996, said Tanya Blazina, spokesperson for the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

Change sparks action

Rapid developments in technology and global competition have caused an upheaval in the global labour market, leaving many workers in need of an opportunity to reskill.

“Ontario’s economy is changing,” said Mitzie Hunter, minister of advanced education and skills development.

“New technologies, globalization and shifting demographics mean that the available jobs — and the types of skills needed to succeed in those roles — are different. These agreements mean we can provide programs and services that directly connect people with opportunities to get those skills.”

The pacts are “good news for the Ontario labour market,” according to Margaret Eaton, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

“Even though Canada has a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, the truth is there are still skills shortages in the labour market,” she said.

“(This) agreement to invest in jobs and skills training, work placements and employer-sponsored training will help fill this gap.”

The government’s proactive response to market changes is also encouraging, said Eaton.

“Giving people — especially underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities and immigrants — the opportunity to gain the training to succeed in future roles will pay dividends down the road.”

Role of employers

Employers have a major role to play in empowering employees to contribute to their fullest potential, said Eaton.

“Under the new agreements, the stage is set for employers to invest more in training for their workers, which will allow them to retain and attract the best investments organizations can make for their workforce,” she said, citing employer-sponsored training and counselling as examples.

And employers are a key partner in ensuring Ontario has the skilled workforce it needs to succeed in a changing economy, said Blazina.

“Ontario’s skills development programs are available to assist both individuals and employers.”

For example, through the Canada-Ontario Job Grant, the government provides direct financial support to individual employers or groups seeking to purchase training for employees, she said.

Other funded initiatives include making accurate, accessible labour market information available to aid employers with workforce planning, as well as the development of strategies identifying sector or regional workforce needs, followed by developing training solutions to meet the needs of employers, employees and jobseekers, said Blazina.

Range of options

Through the agreements, the province intends to fund a wide range of employment and training programming, she said.

Included in the mix will be apprenticeship in-school training, essential skills training, retraining for high-demand occupations, programming for persons with disabilities, as well as a framework to help employers upskill their workforce, said Blazina.

The WDA will provide funding for adult education classes, skills training for people on social assistance, and the Youth Job Connection program. The new agreement consolidates previous funding from the Canada Job Fund and Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities.

LMDA funding will benefit employers and employees by helping jobseekers find work, matching employers with potential recruits, providing training or education for unemployed workers, and aiding employers with training costs.

The promised money will also fund innovative approaches to workforce development, through initiatives like experiential learning opportunities for post-secondary students or recent graduates, she said.

The two governments will measure how the programming increases employees’ earnings, provides long-lasting employment, and its overall effectiveness in breaking down barriers for underrepresented sectors such as Indigenous people, workers with disabilities, and women.

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