Flaherty says jobs grant will enable employers to fill their own skills gaps

‘We are trying to get to the point where training means jobs, not just training,’ Finance Minister says

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wants to give employers a little more power to fill their own skills gaps, and he’s hoping renegotiated transfers to the provinces will do the trick.

Flaherty proposed a new Canada Job Grant that he said will “transform the way we provide skills training to ensure we connect Canadians with available jobs.”

The government will fund the grant, which makes up the lion’s share of provincial transfers for skills training, to the tune of $300 million a year by 2017–18. Provinces and employers will kick in matching funds.

“The new grant should lead to one essential thing for unemployed or underemployed Canadians—a new or better job,” he told his colleagues in the House of Commons.

The program’s success depends on negotiations with employer groups and, importantly, the provinces themselves. The government’s line is that the provinces are already using $300 million a year to train new workers, but allowing employers to identify gaps where they exist would more effectively close those gaps.

When businesses have an employee they want to train, they’ll be able to apply to their provincial government for up to $5,000 in federal money that the province would match. The employer who’s applying would also match the funds. All told, employees could receive $15,000 for training.

“The reaction we had from business, including the Manufacturers and Exporters Association, was that this was something that was important, that should be done, that employers are very much seeking people with the right skills, that employers sometimes train people themselves, and that they’d like to participate,” Flaherty told reporters at a press conference before he tabled the budget.

Flaherty said it’s imperative that employers play a role in matching people with jobs.

“We are seeing this mismatch, unfortunately, between training and jobs. And we are trying to get to the point where training means jobs, not just training,” he said. “We need employers involved in that because, after all, they’re the bottom line of employment. They’re the people who hire people.”

The government says the jobs grants, once they’re fully implemented after a four-year phase-in period, will benefit 130,000 Canadians every year.

The remaining annual skills transfer payments of $200 million will “support delivery of critical employment services, such as counselling and job search assistance, and administration”—services the provinces will provide as they have since the provincial skills transfers were launched in 2007.

Flaherty also announced support for apprentices, internships, disabled and aboriginal Canadians, as well as recent immigrants. All told, the government says it will spend $60 million this year and $71 million in 2014-15 on various job-creation initiatives.

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