More than 2.1 million people have applied for EI in the last two weeks.

More than 2.1 million people have applied for EI in the last two weeks.

With workers at home, feds eye ways to fast-track training program, groups say

How to help workers stuck at home or out of work to prevent their skills from becoming

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking at ways to speed-up the introduction of skills-training help for out-of-work Canadians, say groups involved in helping implement the program.

The training help was scheduled to arrive at the end of the year in the form of an annual tax credit and time off through the employment insurance system for workers that wanted to upgrade their skills, or learn something new to help their job hunt.

Promised in last year’s budget, the training benefit was the subject of intense discussions among senior government officials and post-secondary training institutions immediately before the current pandemic landed in Canada.

Now, the conversations have turned to how to use the economic shutdown from COVID-19 as a catalyst to speed up the training benefit’s introduction, says Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada.

Groups say the thinking is how to get workers now stuck at home or out of work to take programs to prevent their skills from becoming rusty while they don’t use them regularly.

More than 2.1 million people have applied for EI in the last two weeks.

“It is a chance to upgrade your skills, to sharpen your skills, and, as we say, to be ready to help accelerate Canada in a recovery faster,” Davidson said in an interview.

Denise Amyot, president of Colleges and Institutes Canada, says the thinking is to prepare for after the pandemic and reduce the time needed for an economic recovery.

Also factoring into decisions, she says, is that not every business may make it through the sharp downturn the country is facing.

A recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business of the small- and medium-sized businesses it represents suggested about one-third that are closed due to COVID-19 aren’t sure that they’ll ever reopen their doors.

Amyot said there is a need to measure which skills the economy will need after the public health response to ensure there isn’t a vacuum of skills.

“Right now, if we have jobs or businesses that are completely disappearing, it means we need to ensure that people are training for those jobs that will get through this pandemic,” Amyot said in a telephone interview.

“And we need measures that can be implemented quickly.”

She added that some workers may also be taking time at home to reconsider their career paths and may be looking at retraining options that can be done remotely.

“They don’t want to lose their skills so they’re looking for training opportunities,” she said, before adding that some skilled-trades training ”is not that easy to do online.”

One big question is how to help workers who want it to pay for training, especially if federal help barely covers the cost of necessities.

The Liberals’ pre-election budget last year put aside more than $1.7 billion over five years to create a tax credit and pay for dedicated time off for workers to take skills-training programs. It was aimed to be in place by December 2020.

Canadian workers earning between $10,000 and about $150,000 a year would receive an annual $250 refundable tax credit, accumulating over time, to offset the costs of learning new job skills.

The idea was to help workers throughout their careers to adapt to changes within their chosen fields, or to help them acquire a whole new skill set to change professions. Some of the thinking behind it was to avoid some of the negative ripples from automation.

Federal policymakers weren’t considering a sudden downturn when they drafted the program. The program also envisioned a tuition component, but the change in circumstances may give governments a chance to see if there’s a way to step in with some help, Davidson said.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Masks were made mandatory in any workplace setting across Alberta as the premier introduced sweeping measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

Lynne McConnell, a Red Deer single mom who runs a delivery company, is left without a car for her business after her vehicle was stolen twice in about 48 hours. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Highway 11, from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House, is about to be twinned in a $120-million project announced Friday. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Town of Sylvan Lake likes Highway 11 twinning plans

Province plans to twin Highway 11 to Rocky Mountain House

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs live during a small concert for charity in Toronto on December 7, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Justin Bieber leads Canadian Grammy nods, Kaytranada among new artist contenders

Justin Bieber leads Canadian Grammy nods, Kaytranada among new artist contenders

Canada's Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman speaks via video link at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., on September 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Keystone XL not the same project John Kerry nixed in 2015, Canada’s U.S. envoy says

Keystone XL not the same project John Kerry nixed in 2015, Canada’s U.S. envoy says

The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014. Imperial Oil Ltd. says it will relinquish its contract to provide operational, technical and business management services to Syncrude Canada Ltd. when Suncor takes over its oilsands mining operations at the end of 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Imperial Oil set to end Syncrude services contract as Suncor becomes operator

Imperial Oil set to end Syncrude services contract as Suncor becomes operator

Bay Street in Canada's financial district is shown in Toronto on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
North American stock markets surge higher, Dow tops 30,000

North American stock markets surge higher, Dow tops 30,000

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground as a deer stands in a canola field near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. The Canada Energy Regulator says we will still heavily rely on fossil fuels over the next 30 years even with a bigger carbon tax and other new climate change policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

A fall stretch of long, warm weather has meant a much better harvest than last year, when this kind of snow arrived a month earlier.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Snowy roads in the forecast for Central Albertans

Central Albertans should expect a little extra snow on the roads for… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Chris Douglas will take on a different hockey challenge later this month, playing NHL 21 in a virtual Memorial Cup competition against some of the best players in the CHL. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Douglas pumped to represent Rebels in virtual Memorial Cup showdown

In more than 250 days, Chris Douglas hasn’t had a chance to… Continue reading

Most Read