Funding on hold for re-training programs
A provincial government move to put a hold on further spending in the Skills Development Employment Benefits program last week has rippled down to prevent training opportunities in the near future to unemployed workers in the Boundary region. Late Friday afternoon of last week, the provincial government advised the Skills Development Employment Benefits programs being offered around the province to rein in spending on all retraining programs and to cap all tuition funding effective immediately. While the maximum amount of funding has been capped at $4000, some parts of the province have completely run out of money. The East and West Kootenays may have no funding available to help re-train workers in the near future.
The SDEB program is managed by one contractor for the West Kootenay / Boundary areas based out of Nelson. Unemployed individuals interested in retraining opportunities work with their local employment program staff, managed by Community Futures Boundary in the Boundary region, to develop their training plans and budgets. These proposals are then processed by the SDEB program managers.
Wendy McCulloch, general manager of Community Futures Boundary, said that their programs have been advised that there will be no new intakes into the SDEB program for the rest of the fiscal year. Other clients waiting for the final approval of their training programs have also been told that their training will not proceed.
“We’re very concerned about the impact on our clients. We’re hoping that the ministry down the road is going to be able to reevaluate or re-profile some funds so we are able to continue to serve the training needs in this area. We had some clients anticipating being able to start some training and regrettably we’re not able to move forward with those at this time.”
At this point, McCulloch says that the other employment programs have not been impacted. McCulloch’s sense is that the programs were over-subscribed with the high levels of unemployment in the province, and is hopeful that in the new fiscal year the funding will be available again.
The B.C. Liberals’ abrupt decision to cut skills training is a bad economic move that will leave unemployed British Columbians without the means to retrain to meet labour market demands, said NDP MLA Katrine Conroy and NDP MP Alex Atamanenko.
“This program provides the support that unemployed residents of the Kootenays need so that they can retrain and get back to work” said Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West, “However, service providers were told late last week that the program is out of money, with no word of further funding. The laid-off forestry workers in our area need this re-training and support to make ends meet during these difficult economic times,” said Conroy. New Democrat MLAs across the province have been raising their concerns with Rich Coleman, the Minister responsible.
MP Alex Atamanenko has written a letter to the federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Diane Finley, to ask that she step in to assess the situation. Atamanenko writes that “Many training institutions and schools will be forced to lay off training staff, adding to the ranks of the unemployed.” He also adds that “In my Riding, one trainer of aspiring truck operators – who come from throughout the province to train – will lose seventy-five percent of his students, and his income to employ trainers. What happens to trainees who cannot meet the full costs?”
Conroy and Atamanenko are asking that both the BC and Federal Government step in and make sure that those who are unemployed are given the support that they need to get through this very tough economic period in the Kootenays.