Monday, December 13, 2010

Ontario seeks stimulus funding top-up for skills training

From The Toronto Star - December 8, 2010
- Louise Brown

They may just be running a snack shop — learning to serve lunch, take inventory, handle cash — but these springboard skills have helped hundreds of jobless workers off welfare at a Toronto training centre that says it faces cuts if it loses federal funding.

The mock snack shop is just one program at PTP Adult Literacy and Employment Programs that will have to lay off teachers and shrink classes if Ottawa stops its stimulus top-up of Ontario training services as planned next spring.

“We’ve doubled the number of unemployed we serve each year with the extra federal funding and our programs are still full,” said executive director Barbara McFater. PTP is one of hundreds of centres across Ontario that shared a $630 million federal boost over the past two years for training, literacy and employment programs to help those hit by the recession.

“We’ve been able to help about 1,200 people a year who have gaps in their skills; maybe they didn’t finish high school or they’re living in poverty or have criminal records or health problems — and many are single moms — but we’ll only be able to serve about half as many if we lose that stimulus funding,” McFater warned.

In an open letter to Ottawa, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities cautioned the shutdown of stimulus dollars would throw 13,000 students out of programs like PTP, deprive 29,000 students of help finding a summer job and remove training and job help for 7,000 new Canadians.

“The effects of the recession aren’t going to end on March 31, especially for those folks who don’t have a lot of education,” said MPP John Milloy, whose letter urges Diane Finley, federal minister of human resources and skills development, to keep providing an extra $315 million a year for training and literacy.

“The clock is ticking — so many of the groups that have received the funding are planning now for their next fiscal year,” said Milloy.

However in a reply Tuesday to Milloy, Finley did not pledge further funding but invited Ontario to submit any request for more funding during pre-budget hearings next spring.

Joanne Kaattari, executive director of the Community Literacy Network of Ontario, said poor literacy skills are a serious problem in Ontario that all levels of government should be tackling.

“Literacy touches on so many issues; employment, poverty, health, even civic engagement. The increase in funding was helpful and timely, but we still have waiting lists.”

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