Fewer dol­lars for jobs

Pro­vin­cial pro­gram that helps find jobs for un­em­ployed Is­lan­ders has fund­ing cut 70 per cent

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - THE GUARDIAN

Robert Hen­der­son says he might not be where he is to­day with­out help from Work Ex­pe­ri­ence P.E.I.

The O’Leary-In­ver­ness Lib­eral MLA says he’s dis­ap­pointed his gov­ern­ment is tak­ing money out of a pro­gram that is de­signed to help un­em­ployed Is­lan­ders de­velop job skills.

Fund­ing from Ot­tawa for skills de­vel­op­ment is be­ing cut $1 mil­lion over the next four years so the province is tak­ing that money out of Work Ex­pe­ri­ence P.E.I., re­duc­ing it from $1.4 mil­lion to $400,000.

Work­force Min­is­ter Richard Brown says the pro­gram will change di­rec­tion with more em­pha­sis put on train­ing peo­ple for long-term em­ploy­ment in the pri­vate sec­tor through Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment.

Hen­der­son said he got his start in the work­force as a drafts­man for shell­fish leas­ing thanks to the work ex­pe­ri­ence pro­gram.

Hen­der­son said it’s go­ing to hurt ru­ral P.E.I.

“By re­duc­ing this pro­gram and not hav­ing the money for the public sec­tor, or non­profit work, peo­ple are miss­ing out on valu­able work ex­pe­ri­ence and, in my rid­ing, I don’t have a lot of pri­vate sec­tor ( job op­por­tu­ni­ties),’’ Hen­der­son said Wed­nes­day fol­low­ing ques­tion pe­riod in the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture.

Brown said non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions can still ap­ply for em­ployee grants through the Em­ploy­ment De­vel­op­ment Agency (EDA). How­ever, Hen­der­son says those jobs come at min­i­mum wage whereas jobs through Work Ex­pe­ri­ence P.E.I. come at min­i­mum wage and that wage is topped up through em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance.

“It’s bet­ter money and it helps cir­cu­late money in the econ­omy. It helps non-profit groups get em­ploy­ment.’’

Hen­der­son said Work Ex­pe­ri­ence P. E. I. jobs re­cently helped turn the old liquor store in O’Leary into Com­mu­nity In­clu­sions. That work isn’t fin­ished yet.

“If these groups can’t get this type of pro­gram they are miss­ing out on valu­able work ex­pe­ri­ence plus the or­ga­ni­za­tions miss out on labour to get projects done in a more cost ef­fec­tive way.’’

Brown said he wants to cre­ate sus­tain­able em­ploy­ment and not just enough weeks to qual­ify for em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance.

“We’re look­ing for long-term, year-round good pay­ing jobs,’’ Brown said. “We’re re­pro­fil­ing some of the money in or­der to con­cen­trate it to where it’s get­ting peo­ple long-term, year­round em­ploy­ment. That’s our job; to find these peo­ple jobs in the pri­vate sec­tor.’’

Morell-Mer­maid Con­ser­va­tive MLA Sid­ney MacEwen said it’s go­ing to make it harder for peo­ple in ru­ral P.E.I. with lit­tle or no work ex­pe­ri­ence to get into the work­force.

“It’s go­ing to be much harder now. It’s go­ing to hurt the not-for­prof­its, the lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that rely on it,’’ MacEwen said, not­ing ex­am­ples like the Farm Cen­tre and Art in the Open, a ma­jor out­door ex­hi­bi­tion in Char­lot­te­town in Au­gust.

Hen­der­son said the pri­vate sec­tor tends to want skilled labour so they look for ap­pren­tices, peo­ple with a bit of ex­pe­ri­ence.

Brown said they’ll do what they can for who they can.

“Will there be some re­duc­tions? Of course there is. There will be or­ga­ni­za­tions that will not be funded. Some of the or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­ceived fund­ing for tem­po­rary em­ploy­ees in the past we’ll try and (help them),’’ the min­is­ter said.

Brown said groups like Art in the Open may have to fundraise more than be­fore or rely more on vol­un­teers.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

O'Leary-In­ver­ness Lib­eral MLA Robert Hen­der­son says he's dis­ap­pointed to hear that gov­ern­ment is cut­ting fund­ing to Work Ex­pe­ri­ence P.E.I., a pro­gram that helps Is­lan­ders find em­ploy­ment. Hen­der­son said that pro­gram gave him his start in the work­force. Hen­der­son is pic­tured here with West Roy­alty-Spring­vale Lin­eral MLA Bush Dumville prior to ques­tion pe­riod in the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture on Wed­nes­day.

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