Little left for skills agenda after billions committed to security

Sector councils to receive funding increase

After months of talk about the need to enrich Canada’s labour pool, the national skills agenda was overshadowed by security spending - though not completely forgotten in Monday’s budget.

Finance Minister Paul Martin reiterated the government’s position that a more educated and skilled labour force is a key driver of productivity and therefore a key to competitiveness.

“Mr. Speaker, knowledge is to the information age what steam was to the industrial age: it is the fuel that drives it, the energy that sustains it,” he said before going on to review earlier contributions of the government to skills and learning.

Martin committed another $1.1 billion over three years to support skills, learning and research. Much of that will go to research, though some new funding will have a more direct impact on the labour pool and Canadian employers.

For example, over the next two years $24 million in new spending will go to “exemplary” sector councils.

“Canada’s 29 sector councils are industry-led partnerships bringing together workers, employers and educators in a new, hands-on approach to skills development,” said Martin.

“From textiles to tourism to biotechnology, these councils are examining what skills are needed today and what skills will be needed for tomorrow, developing training programs and pointing workers toward emerging job opportunities. They are producing needed results. And we will expand the network quickly to include other strategic sectors, and we will double the funding for these councils to $60 million.”

There was also more money for apprentice training ($15 million annually), new funding for people with disabilities pursuing higher education ($19 million annually), and an extension of education tax credits intended to promote lifelong learning ($20 million annually).

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