A skilled, inclusive workforce is a key indicator of a diversified and resilient economy, and any economic strategy must include elements that target more vulnerable Canadians, including those living in poverty and those at higher risk of poverty. Skills training programs provide opportunities for individuals who are under-represented in the workforce, or who experience barriers to employment, to move beyond social assistance or low-wage jobs and establish sustained ties to the labour market. Such programs support individuals to achieve their goals, including financial independence, as well as to become taxpayers and long-term contributors to the economy.
Momentum has an immediate understanding of the benefits of such programs. Their Trades Training program for immigrant and Indigenous Persons has helped over 1000 graduates launch careers as carpenters, heavy-duty mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and pipefitters. The program has a strong track record of enabling participants to secure meaningful work, become apprenticed, and stay out of poverty. Due to successful partnerships with industry employers, the program remains responsive to the local labour market, achieves strong employment outcomes, and delivers an economic return to society.
More can be to be done to ensure that the Labour Market Transfer Agreements (LMTAs) support these types of skills and employment training opportunities. The employer-driven Canada Job Grant program in particular has not benefitted vulnerable Canadians. In fact, in Alberta at least 98% of Canada Job Grant funds have been used to support individuals already working. Moreover, the Canada Job Fund Agreements require an increasing proportion of federal transfer dollars to be allocated to the Canada Job Grant program. This has been done at the expense of existing skills training programs, for which demand already far exceeds supply. While initiatives that seek to boost employer involvement in training are important, strong investments in skills training programs for individuals with weaker workforce attachment should not suffer as a consequence.
Momentum’s discussion and recommendations focus on the steps that can be taken to ensure that all Canadians, particularly those who experience weaker labour market attachment and greater barriers to employment, can access employment and skills training opportunities.
- Amend the Canada Job Fund Agreements and dismantle the Canada Job Grant program
- Increase flexibility so that provinces and territories can use funding to design and support programs that work best given their unique needs and context.
- Remove funding targets so that provinces and territories are able to allocate transfer dollars to a wider range of programs, including self-employment programs.
- Include targets for a CJG dollars accessed by unemployed individuals to prevent the Grant from being used solely as an upskilling fund.
- Include targets for women, given the gender imbalance in the selection of trainees reported in Alberta.
- Shift intention and design from employer-driven to employer-involved training.
- Revisit the purpose of the Canada Job Fund Agreements so that the original policy objectives of the Labour Market Agreements are restored.
- Expand Employment Insurance (EI) eligibility
- Increase funding through the Labour Market Transfer Agreements for skills training opportunities as well as career and employment services to support all Canadians.
- Adjust the funding allocation formula that directs federal transfers to account for changes in unemployment rates.
- The role of the service provider, in addition to the roles of government and employers, needs recognition in LMTAs.
- A pool of funding could be earmarked to support local, multi-sectoral partnerships, and would serve to advance the goals of the labour market agreements.
- Set aside funds for innovation in the Labour Market Transfer Agreements, and provide the programs with support to try out new approaches without being tied too early to traditional outcomes of success.
- Find ways for the government to support and encourage service providers to innovate and remain responsive to changing labour market demand
- LMTAs should include funds for shared measurement and communications projects by community-based service providers.
Momentum is an award-winning, non-profit organization based in Calgary that takes a Community Economic Development (CED) approach to poverty reduction. Rooted in an understanding that social, economic, and environmental challenges are interconnected, CED is community-driven action to create economic opportunities that also reduce poverty and unemployment, enable local participation, and improve environmental sustainability. For the past 25 years, Momentum has drawn on CED principles to help over 40,000 individuals and families living on low incomes to develop sustainable livelihoods. Through our business development, skills training, and financial literacy programs we help participants launch small businesses, gain meaningful employment, and manage and save money.