Fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion needed

The Compass - - OPINION - Bar­bara Dean-sim­mons is the as­so­ciate man­ag­ing ed­i­tor for TC Me­dia Week­lies in this province. She writes from Clarenville.

“The Government of New­found­land and Labrador reg­u­larly con­sults with a broad ar­ray of in­dus­try, em­ployer, com­mu­nity, spe­cial in­ter­est, the gen­eral pub­lic and client groups to in­form pol­icy and bud­get pri­or­i­ties and to en­sure pro­grams and ser­vices are ef­fec­tive and rel­e­vant, and will con­tinue to do so through­out the six-year pe­riod of the CA-NL Labour Mar­ket Agree­ment.”

The government’s words — not ours — found in the ap­pen­dix of the Canada-New­found­land and Labrador Labour Mar­ket Agree­ment (2012-13 an­nual plan), dated Oct. 1, 2012.

The province’s re­cent an­nounce­ment that it would elim­i­nate Em­ploy­ment As­sis­tance Ser­vices (EAS) of­fices came as quite a sur­prise.

In its press re­lease, the De­part­ment of Ad­vance Skills and Ed­u­ca­tion was short on sta­tis­ti­cal facts, and long on ver­bal rea­son­ing, in­clud­ing broad, non­spe­cific ram­blings that ap­pears to sug­gest that Ca­reer Work Cen­tres are a bet­ter op­tion.

We can’t say the de­ci­sion by government is ab­so­lutely wrong. How­ever, there are sev­eral things about it that don’t seem quite right. So we surfed the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral government webites in an ef­fort to ed­u­cate our­selves. Here is what we found. The Canada-New­found­land Labour Mar­ket Agree­ment was an­nounced in De­cem­ber, 2009. The head­line on the pro­vin­cial government press re­lease, dated Dec. 7, 2009, an­nounced “Labour Mar­ket Devel­op­ment Agree­ment will strengthen pro­vin­cial work­force.”

Es­sen­tially, on Nov. 2 of that year, the province as­sumed con­trol for the de­sign and de­liv­ery of EI­funded em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and sup­port mea­sures that were pre­vi­ously de­liv­ered by Ot­tawa.

In the House of As­sem­bly on Dec. 7, min­is­ter Su­san Sul­li­van noted the province would re­ceive $133 mil­lion per year un­der this agree­ment.

Judg­ing by the 2011-12 Per­for­mance In­di­ca­tors Report of the LMA, a lot of peo­ple were get­ting help with train­ing and re-train­ing through the pro­gram, and find­ing em­ploy­ment be­cause of it. Here are some of the Report high­lights: • Be­tween April, 2011, and March, 2012, 2026 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in and re­ceived sup­ports un­der LMA-funded em­ploy­ment and train­ing pro­grams.

• Over half of them (1,956) were youth (aged 30 and un­der) or older work­ers (55 and over).

• Al­most three quar­ters of LMA pro­gram par­tic­i­pants did not grad­u­ate from high school or have a high school cer­tifi­cate as their high­est level of ed­u­ca­tion at the start of their pro­gram.

• Just over 45 per­cent of LMA pro­gram par­tic­i­pants lived in ru­ral ar­eas of the province.

• Of the 463 peo­ple who com­pleted a fol­low up sur­vey af­ter com­plet­ing their pro­gram in the 2010/11 fis­cal year, nearly half were em­ployed or self-em­ployed and an­other 18 per­cent were en­rolled in an ed­u­ca­tion/train­ing pro­gram.

• And 83 per­cent of the re­spon­dents of that sur­vey re­ported they were work­ing full-time jobs.

You can find the report, and the LMA an­nual plans by vis­itin: http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/em­ploy­ment/part­ner­ships/lma/in­dex.shtml

Suf­fice to say, though, our quick read through the report raises ques­tions about the de­ci­sion to can­cel a pro­gram that seemed to be pro­vid­ing a needed ser­vice and help­ing peo­ple (the ma­jor­ity of whom live in ru­ral ar­eas of New­found­land and Labrador) ob­tain train­ing and em­ploy­ment.

The LMA ob­jec­tive, as out­lined in the Oct. 1, 2012, an­nual plan for 2012-13, is “In­creas­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion and labour force at­tach­ment among un­em­ployed and low-skilled em­ployed in­di­vid­u­als.”

With­out the Em­ploy­ment As­sis­tance Ser­vices in ru­ral ar­eas like Bon­av­ista peo­ple in those com­mu­ni­ties will have to travel to larger towns — Clarenville in this case — to seek help through the province’s Ca­reer Work Cen­tres.

That 180 km round trip is not ex­actly easy when you’re al­ready dis­ad­van­taged fi­nan­cially due to lack of train­ing and em­ploy­ment.

We’d love to be able to of­fer up a com­par­i­son of how the EAS cen­tres stack up against the Ca­reer Work Cen­tres in terms of cost and the em­ploy­ment success rate of clients.

If that in­for­ma­tion ex­ists on the pro­vin­cial government’s web­site, we can’t find it.

We await, with an­tic­i­pa­tion, the de­liv­ery of such in­for­ma­tion from the pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cers and min­is­te­rial staff who may take um­brage with this ed­i­to­rial.

Un­til then, how­ever, the ques­tions than an­swers.

At this point, based on the LMA per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors report, the ev­i­dence in favour of keep­ing the EAS of­fices open ap­pears to out­weigh the ev­i­dence (or lack thereof ) for clos­ing them.


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