In its 2007 budget, the federal government committed $500 million annually from 2008-09 to 2013-14 for Labour Market Agreements (LMAs) to be signed with provinces and territories. In late February 2008, Ontario signed a LMA with the federal government that will provide the Province with about $195 million per year.
Pursuant to Section 22 (2) of the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Agreement (LMA), Ontario is submitting its 2008-09 Annual Plan which outlines:
As indicated in Ontario's multi-year plan, included with the Canada-Ontario Labour Market Agreement, the Province's labour market is characterized by:
To maintain and advance Ontario's competitive edge, Ontario is investing to enhance the labour market participation of individuals and increase opportunities for skills training, especially for those not eligible for the EI program. Ontario is equally committed to helping workers who have been affected by changes in global trade to train for new careers.
The short-term Ontario economic outlook is heavily influenced by external factors. The Canadian dollar has increased in value since 2002 due primarily to higher oil and commodity prices and more recently due to weakness in the U.S. economy. The high dollar has created challenges for Ontario's export-oriented manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and tourism sectors. These factors point to a challenging external economic environment for Ontario at least in the short-term. The current tumult in world financial markets has also created a climate of great uncertainty.
Creating a skilled and highly educated workforce is the driving force behind Ontario's economic plan. Ontario has taken action to further strengthen the Province's economic advantage, and to help the manufacturing, forestry, agriculture and tourism sectors better weather Ontario's economic challenges. The 2008 Provincial Budget announced a $2 billion, three year Skills to Jobs Action Plan to help people get well-paying, stable jobs through programs that support new skills for new careers, increase access to postsecondary education and build places to learn.
The centrepiece of the Skills to Jobs Action Plan is the Second Career Strategy – a $355 million investment over three years to help about 20,000 unemployed workers get long-term training for new and better careers. The Skills to Jobs Action Plan also includes $75 million over the next three years to expand apprenticeship training. When combined with the campus renewal and strategic capital investments included in the 2007 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the government of Ontario is investing $2 billion in the Skills to Jobs Action Plan. The Second Career Strategy and Apprenticeship Expansion will be delivered through Employment Ontario.
Ontario currently spends over $1 billion annually for Employment Ontario, the Province's training and job service which combines transferred federal and existing provincial training support programs. Another $400 million annually is invested in employment supports for newcomers and social assistance recipients. Under Reaching Higher, Ontario is improving and restructuring postsecondary education. The cumulative increase in provincial spending under Reaching Higher will total $6.2 billion by 2009-10 over the 2004-05 funding base.
LMA funding will flow through Ontario programs and services to support and complement the new and enhanced programs under Ontario's Skills to Jobs Action Plan. LMA funding will also be applied towards existing Employment Ontario initiatives and the Ontario government will continue its strategy of transforming Employment Ontario in order to improve services to clients.
For the first year of operation under the new labour market agreement, Ontario plans to direct LMA investment, wherever possible, towards the extension of current programming to serve those clients who are newly eligible for skills training and supports under the agreement.
Under the LMA, Ontario programs will target the following clients:
For these eligible clients, Ontario is investing in programming under the following broad priority areas, with the associated objectives as indicated. Specific actions within each priority area have been identified in the Multi-Year Plan developed as part of the agreement, and included in Annex 1.
In general, in 2008-09, Ontario will focus on expanding opportunities for skills training – both technical skills training and foundation skills training – for the more than 70 per cent of unemployed Ontarians who are not eligible for EI, and for the large numbers of low-skilled workers in the Province, including employees in low-skilled jobs seeking qualifications to move up. Ontario will also increase training and supports for immigrants and persons with disabilities, whose numbers in Ontario are proportionately larger than elsewhere in Canada.
In projecting expenditures for this first year under the LMA, Ontario is expecting to be able to direct the largest portion of LMA funding towards technical skills training for the very large numbers of unemployed people who are not eligible for EI. Expenditures for the remaining priorities have been projected on a best-estimate basis. However, given the very short timeline between signing and implementation of the agreement, subsequent adjustments may be required if, for example, the numbers of eligible clients in a given priority are more (or less) than projected, or if difficulties are encountered in being able to rapidly expand certain types of programming in one or more regions.
The following provides a brief description of Ontario's new budget initiatives from the 2008 Ontario Budget, under the Skills to Jobs Action Plan, and provides a broad overview of existing initiatives that are intended to enhance the labour market participation of individuals. It is anticipated that a portion of clients in many of these programs will be eligible under the LMA agreement.
Second Career Strategy
This Strategy, announced in the 2008 Ontario Budget, is intended to help about 20,000 unemployed workers affected by job loss as the economy restructures, get long-term training to make the transition to new and better careers in growing areas of the economy. The Strategy will offer one or two-year skills training courses, related needs-based income supports, and career planning services. The Strategy includes Ontario's current Rapid Re-employment and Training service which provides job counselling assistance to workers affected by large lay-offs.
The Province will increase the number of apprentices in Ontario, with a target of 32,500 new registrants annually, expand classroom training and pre-apprenticeship training, support employers of apprentices, and bring equipment for student training up to a state-of-the-art standard, through an Apprenticeship Enhancement fund. Prospective apprentices can also work simultaneously towards both a college diploma and apprenticeship certification through the Province's Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship Program.
Reaching Higher Access
This program increases opportunities for Aboriginal Peoples, francophones, persons with disabilities, and persons who are the first in their family to attend postsecondary education, to gain access to, and succeed in, postsecondary education.
Literacy and Basic Skills
These programs provide literacy services to adults who are out of school and without the literacy skills necessary to find and keep a job or meet everyday needs.
The program provides training and work experience to enable attainment of an equivalent to a high school diploma for 'at risk' youth, and adults in low-wage, low-skill employment.
Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program
This program helps prospective apprentices develop their job skills and trade readiness to prepare them for entry into apprenticeship training.
Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM)
Ontario is investing in at-risk youth. Programs such as the Specialist High Skills Majors (and dual credit) motivate and enable students, still working towards their high school diploma, to customize their high school work and begin preparation to specialize in a certain sector. Students taking a SHSM program, earn selected credits and engage in other learning strategies to prepare themselves to enter a particular field – either through apprenticeship, college or university, or directly into the workplace.
Students working in approved dual credit programs at the high school level can count their credits towards their high school diploma as well as a postsecondary certificate, diploma, degree or apprenticeship certification.
Pathways to Education
Ontario contributes to the ground-breaking and holistic Pathways to Education program, first trialed in 2001in downtown Toronto's Regent Park. The goal of this increasingly successful program is to reduce poverty and its effects by lowering the high school dropout rate and increasing access to post-secondary education among disadvantaged youth.
Bridge Training and Employment-related Training for Immigrants
Newcomers to Ontario have access to programming under Employment Ontario, including the Job Connect program. In 2008-09 Ontario plans to increase financial support to help skilled immigrants meet the entry-to-practice requirements in regulated professions and skilled trades, or related occupations. Ontario is also investing in more effective integration of new Canadians through improving language skills, as a precursor to employment.
Ontario plans to expand Job Connect, its flagship program, which helps job seekers find and keep jobs by linking employers with adults and youth. The program has an information and referral component as well as active planning, job searching and job placement supports – including on-the-job training. In
Ontario Disability Support Program
Ontario is planning to increase participation in training and in the labour market for people with disabilities. Over 2008-09, the focus will be on increased access and the removal of barriers to existing programming that meets the needs of people with a range of disabilities. Funding will be used to enhance the Skills to Jobs Action Plan / Employment Ontario in order to enhance availability of integrated, accessible labour market programs for people with disabilities.
Reaching Higher Access
Ontario is planning to increase opportunities for persons with disabilities to gain access to, and succeed in, postsecondary education.
The Province is extending current programming to 'new' clients, many of whom have not previously been eligible for publicly-funded labour market programming.
Overall, it is anticipated that investment in technical skills training, foundation skills training, and supports for specific target groups will result in enhanced participation in the labour market by members of under-represented groups.
In evaluating the specific results of investments during this first year, Ontario will gather data on the indicators identified in Annex 2 of the agreement, share data with the federal government and report to the public on results achieved.
The following provides an overview of the Province's labour market stakeholder consultations during late 2007 – early 2008:
Pre-budget consultations were held in 13 communities between December 2007 and January 2008. Feedback received during these community-based sessions informed the Province's Skills to Jobs Action Plan announced in the 2008 Budget.
Ontario's four Regional Directors undertook a provincial tour during March-April 2008 (each in their own region) to talk with their stakeholders about the Employment Ontario transformation to a fully integrated service delivery network, and to discuss new developments such as the LMA.
These included English and Francophone business, labour and community groups, representing a broad range of service users.
Ontario has an Employment Ontario Francophone Partner Advisory Committee (EOFPAC) with representatives from nine organizations. This group met in November 2007 and again in February 2008 to discuss the proposed Employment Ontario Service Delivery Framework, and other new developments in labour market programming. As part of the provincial Regional Directors' tour, a special session was held in Ottawa in March 2008 with French-language stakeholders.
Ontario has established an Employment Ontario reference group – Service Delivery Advisory Group (SDAG) – which includes representatives of key labour market client groups such as immigrants and youth, Francophone stakeholders, and the large third party delivery network for Employment Ontario. This group meets roughly every two-three months. In consultation with this group, Ontario has developed a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy to determine how best to deliver Employment Ontario programs, including those funded under the new LMA, to Ontarians.