The Canada Job Grant was recently announced in the 2013 federal budget. As a new initiative, it presents both challenges and opportunities for the immigrant employment sector.
By Bonnie Mah, Maytree
The Canada Job Grant is a new initiative that the federal government announced in its 2013 Budget. It has piqued a lot of interest in the immigrant employment sector, and for good reason. The Canada Job Grant could present both challenges and opportunities for our sector. At this time, it exists as an announcement only; however, a few details in the announcement give some indications of how the program might be implemented.
The grant will provide up to $15,000 to individuals for short-term occupational training.
Employers can apply for the grant to train unemployed or underemployed workers. The maximum federal contribution of funds will be $5,000, which must be matched by $5,000 in provincial/territorial funds, and $5,000 from the employer.
The government funds will come from the federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs). The federal government plans to negotiate implementation with provinces and territories in 2014-15, and fully implement the program by 2017-18.
Eligibility requirements, shifts in funding, and a shift in approach to training could present challenges for immigrant employment programs and services.
We do not yet know many details about the individuals or employers who will be able to use the grant, nor about the kinds of training and organizations that will be considered eligible. The Budget document indicates that eligible training institutions will include “community colleges, career colleges and trade union training centres,” but we do not know whether programs delivered by community organizations will be eligible. If they are not, this might drive skilled immigrants and employers to programs offered by “approved” institutions.
Further, the Canada Job Grant will be funded through federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs), which fund programs and services for people who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). When fully implemented, 60% of LMA funding will go towards the Canada Job Grant, leaving only 40% for everything else that is currently funded through LMAs. This could leave proven programs – such as mentoring for skilled immigrants – vulnerable to funding cuts.
The grant also represents a shift in approach to skills training. It relies on the participation and, by extension, the direction of the employer. Some argue that employers are likely to focus on training for immediate needs, which means that broad-based training that might bring longer-term benefits to workers and the labour market could suffer. In addition, employers might tend to rely on training and institutions that they are already familiar with, which might not be targeted at the specific needs of skilled immigrants.
Others question whether employers will be willing to pay $5,000 for training a new worker in the first place, or in the case of small businesses, whether they will have the resources to do so. If employers are allowed to apply for the Canada Job Grant for training programs that they are already running, then this grant might not actually impact how employers hire or encourage them to consider under-employed workers, such as skilled immigrants.
Since we don’t have many details on how the Canada Job Grant will be implemented, we might have opportunities to share our ideas on how to make it most effective. The federal government has indicated that it will consult with stakeholders such as employer associations, educational institutions and labour organizations. In fact, the first consultation was held on April 19 in Brantford, Ontario. It might be possible to encourage federal and provincial/territorial governments to consider the work that we do with skilled immigrants. Perhaps this is a time to consider whether fees for community-based programs are appropriate, if individuals and employers can use the grant to pay them.
If implemented in a way that makes sense for employers, the Canada Job Grant could encourage employers to take risks on candidates who they wouldn’t normally hire. This could benefit many workers, including skilled immigrants. Targeted outreach about the grant and how it could help them hire skilled immigrant talent could nudge employers in that direction.
It is important for those of us working with skilled immigrants and employers to take part in this conversation. We must monitor and share information about the consultations and possible directions for implementation. We need to provide evidence of the success and potential of our work, and consider how to make the Canada Job Grant work for skilled immigrants and employers.
- Budget 2013, Chapter 3.1: Connecting Canadians With Available Jobs (Government of Canada)
- Backgrounder: Canada Job Grant (Prime Minister’s Office)
- Backgrounder (PDF): Canada Job Grant (ALLIES)
- Analysis: A Flimflam Budget (Caledon Commentary)
- Austerity Through Infrastructure Cuts (Behind the Numbers, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)
- Budget 2013 Issue Note: The Canada Job Grant and Federal Funding for Skills Training (CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees))