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