Labour decisions put in the hands of the province

VANCOUVER — Nobody knows better what the B.C. economy needs like British Columbians, and two recent agreements with the federal government will give the province more input into addressing its labour needs.

The agreements aim to remove barriers to labour market participation and provide access to training for individuals who are working and need to improve their skills, as well as for all unemployed British Columbians, including those who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) training programs.

The first, a new Labour Market Agreement, will target those not eligible for employment programs and services under the Employment Insurance program and is worth approximately $396 million over six years.

It will help Canadians too often excluded from the labour force, as well as those workers who lack literacy and essential skills, to get the training they need to obtain sustainable employment. This agreement takes effect April 1.

Through the second, a new Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA), B.C. assumes the responsibility for the design and delivery of Employment Insurance (EI) funded employment benefits and support measures, along with nearly $300 million per year going forward.

This will provide the province with the flexibility to focus job training programs and employment supports on the local and regional needs of both employers and clients. The province will assume this responsibility as of Feb. 2, 2009.

“The province will gain significant economic benefits from these two programs, including improvements in labour productivity, an increase in the domestic product, and better wages for lower income British Columbians,” said Colin Hansen, B.C.’s Minister of Economic Development. “These new agreements will support WorkBC – the provincial strategy for addressing B.C.’s short and longer-term needs for more skilled and unskilled workers – and will also complement our existing programs.”

The federal government has similar arrangements in eight other jurisdictions which assume these responsibilities: New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Similar agreements are being negotiated with other provinces and territories and will be signed in the coming weeks and months.

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