ED ALLARD: Growing skills gap on the job front

There is a growing gap between the job skills that employers need in their workplace and the skills that their existing employees possess.  It can add challenges, particularly for small businesses that can face considerable training or education costs to keep up with changes in technology, new processes and new products.  It can also be more challenging to find new hires with all the requisite skills, so some up-front training is needed for them as well.  

To help address this, a new government program is currently being rolled out to help employers invest in their workforce.  It’s called the Canada-Ontario Job Grant.  It provides direct financial support for businesses that need to purchase training for their employees or prospective new hires.  The level of support is up to $10,000 per employee for training costs.  The federal and provincial governments plan to invest a total $192 million per year in this program over the next six years.  

An eligible third-party trainer must deliver the education or training, so in-house training generally doesn’t apply.  The training can be delivered through public-like colleges, recognized private trainers, union-based trainers or training offered by product vendors.  It doesn’t have to occur here although there are a number of local training outlets that are eligible.  

How it works is that the employer foots the bill for the training up front and the Job Grant program will rebate ⅔ of that back to the employer, up to the $10,000 cap per employee.  The employer must assume the remaining ⅓ of the cost.  The employee or prospective new hire should not have to bear any training costs.  In the case of new hires, the employer is committed to hiring them if they receive training under this program.  

This is a valuable incentive for employers.  But, employees and those seeking jobs get to share the benefit as well because they end up with the added skills that enable them to function better in their jobs or to meet job requirements at no cost to them.  

While employees can certainly discuss their training needs with their employer, individual employees cannot apply directly to this program.  It’s employer-driven, so it’s up to the employer to choose those employees for which he will apply.   

Many local employers are already aware of the program and the Job Zone employment office here in Cornwall has already received a handful of applications.  It is handling inputs for all of Stormont and Dundas counties and approves them here.  Glengarry County applications should be filed with the Glengarry Inter-Agency Group.  Employers who wish to train more than 25 employees must file applications directly with the provincial government.   These selections are made when preparing the application.  

Municipal offices, school boards and hospitals are not eligible.  The program is Ontario-based so applications from Cornwall Island can be accepted, but those parts of Akwesasne outside of Ontario are also not eligible.  

The government is also introducing two, new, employer-driven skills training pilots as an additional part of the Canada-Ontario Job Grant: Customized Training and UpSkill.  These two Job Grant-funded skills training pilots will test different ways of working with employers to provide short-term, flexible training targeted at workplace needs.  The objectives are to meet an employer’s unique needs, beyond his capacity to develop the training.   

More information about the entire program as well as the necessary application forms are available on the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities website at http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/cojg/index.html.  Or questions can be fielded by the local employment offices.  Applications must be filed online and can be filed at any time.  That is all done through the same website.  

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