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Manitoba reaches deal on Canada Job Grant

Program gives employers more say in training programs

Manitoba is the latest province to sign on to the federal government's Canada Job Grant.

The agreement, announced in Winnipeg Wednesday, calls for the province to receive $18 million a year for a variety of training programs.

As in other provinces, the funding works out to $15,000 per person to cover tuition, training materials and other items.

That amount includes up to $10,000 in federal contributions with employers required to contribute on average one-third of the total training costs.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney, who was in Winnipeg Wednesday, said the aim is to have more training geared toward real job opportunities by having employers pay a share of the cost.

"It's about trying to be better... and one way of doing that, in our view, that is to involve the employers, because they're the ones that create the jobs. And employers know what skills they need," Kenney said at Red River College.

Kenney and Manitoba's Jobs and Economy Minister Theresa Oswald signed three agreements that continue funding from Ottawa for training programs, including the Canada Job Grant.

The Canada Job Grant is designed to give employers more of a say in job-training programs and have them contribute their own dollars toward training people for specific jobs.

Other provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario, have already signed on to the program.

Kenney and Oswald also signed a labour-market agreement for people with disabilities and another for older workers.

"We want to just make sure that we continue to get better bang for the taxpayer's buck and get employers more involved in this so that the education actually leads to real jobs and better futures," Kenney said.

Kenney said Manitoba will see $18 million annually from Ottawa under the $500-million Canada Job Fund to put toward "employer-led training." A further $9 million will be sent by Ottawa to the province to help persons with disabilities find work. Another $1.5 million over three years will be provided to help older people find employment.

The Canada Job Grant will be developed by the province over the next few months.

"There's not new money here, but it is a renewal of money that otherwise would be phased out," Kenney said.

Oswald said despite the earlier fight between Kenney and the provinces over the future direction of the job grant, an agreement was reached to the benefit of each government.

"Yes, I had concerns, but I'm cautiously optimistic," she said.

The provinces and territories first balked at signing the job-grant agreement, saying they were fearful Ottawa would claw back federal dollars for successful job-training programs run by the provinces, while forcing them to find millions more to cover their portion of the grant.

However, they dropped their opposition after Kenney agreed to a number of changes, including more flexibility on how federal money is to be used by the provinces on job training and a review of the program in two years to see if other changes are needed.

"I think we met in the middle," Kenney said.

Oswald praised Kenney for the flexibility.

"He has taken the time to speak with me and with government to work through some of these issues, and I think that Manitobans, and indeed Canadians, are better off."

-- with files from The Canadian Press

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