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Budget Overhaul Focuses on Skills Training

The federal budget finance minister Jim Flaherty wheeled out this past Thursday was the usual mix of retractions, readjustments and rewards of a rejigged strategy for getting Canada’s financial house in order. With $900 million in new spending and a projected $6.6-billion drop in the deficit for 2014, the newest financial blueprint is chockablock with measures designed to drive productivity and economic growth. 

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Prominent among them is the feds’ job skills training program. With an aim to give folks not part of the EI system (including older workers and Aboriginals) a means to find their way back into the labour market, the program features the following highlights:

• Currently, the federal government transfers $500 million a year to provinces to facilitate disenfranchised workers’ entry into the labour force; starting in 2014-15, $300 million of that fund will be diverted to the Canada Job Grant.

• This fund will pony up to $5,000 for individuals, provided the province matches that gift, to spend on retraining for people in industries coping with a shortage of skilled workers.

• All told, the grant will provide up to 130,000 Canadians a year with $15,000 for retraining.

• Of the new initiative, Flaherty told reporters: “For the first time, the Canada Job Grant will take the skills-training choices out of the hands of government and put them where they belong — in the hands of employers and Canadians who want to work.”

• Budget 2013 also includes the provision of $4 million over three years to reduce barriers to accreditation for apprentices.

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