Estevan – What if you could have your employees take training that would increase their skills and have the government pay for two-thirds of the cost, up to $10,000? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Except that it is true.
Larry Wells, regional director for labour market services for the Minister of the Economy, spoke at a breakfast meeting on Feb. 25 at the Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute in Estevan. The focus of his presentation was the relatively new Canada-Saskatchewan Job Grant Program.
Instead of paying employees to do make-work projects during slow times, this program provides funding for training to improve individual employees, and through them, the strength of companies.
The program is a collaboration between the federal and provincial governments, based on a concept the federal government came up with a few years ago. Each province has tailored the program to its own needs.
Having started April 2014, the program is intended to last four years.
There are some mandated elements to the program, according to Wells. It’s employer driven. “You (the employer) decide what training is required,” he said.
The employer selects the candidate and who will offer the training.
The program supports new investment in training and employer access to skilled workers.
Wells told the crowd of primarily businesspeople that it is designed to meet their specific needs.
That that’s the catch – this isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky training program, taking training for the sake of training. “The employer must have a job available at the end,” Wells said.
This can be either for existing staff, or new hires. It is a new investment in training, not replacing ongoing training.
The program is flexible in how qualified training is delivered. It can be at a college, online or on-site. But it can’t be offered by in-house staff to the company whose workers are undergoing training. The trainers/instructors must be a third party.
“We will do whatever we can to assist you to make this happen,” Wells said, but added sometimes they will have to say “No.”
For those accepted under the program, the employer must pay out the full cost, first, and then two-thirds of the cost will be reimbursed. The total cost of the training cannot exceed $15,000 per employee per intervention, meaning the reimbursement can be as much as $10,000. Wages to the employees can count towards the company’s contribution.
Courses should also be completed within 52 weeks. Training programs must include a minimum of 25 hours of instruction. There are no restrictions on the learning method – it can be full-time or part-time.
He noted that in family-owned operations, a spouse or child involved in the business can apply for funding, but they personally cannot own 20 per cent or more of the business.
Temporary foreign workers are not eligible for the Canada-Saskatchewan Job Grant. Typical apprenticeship training is not eligible, nor is training required to maintain a professional designation, like a chartered accountant. Wells noted one of the purposes of the program is to instill a new set of skills for individual workers.
Costs that can be covered include tuition, books, student fees, exams fees, GST and PST. Transportation, meals and accommodations are not covered.
Companies applying for this program must be registered in or be operating in Saskatchewan.
Trainees do not have to be residents of Saskatchewan, but the resultant job must be in Saskatchewan. Employers in border communities like Lloydminster are eligible.
The program is capped at $250,000 per year per employer. Some larger companies have used close to that full allocation in the past.
The approval process runs around three weeks, but can be accomplished sooner if the groundwork is done.