A Prince Edward Island Member of Parliament is urging eligible constituents to make use of a new P.E.I. Seasonal Worker Skills Initiative the federal government is funding.
“The EI system, as it is currently structured, is failing the most vulnerable of the seasonally unemployed - those in remote communities, those with limited skills and dependent on short-term seasonal work,” said Bobby Morrissey, the MP for Egmont.
The targeted short-term support, he explains, seeks to assist the most vulnerable of the seasonally employed, those whose benefits expire before their next round of employment commences.
But he said he is concerned many of the people who could benefit might not be aware the program has been created.
He estimates the most vulnerable of the unemployed, the ones who would benefit from the initiative, represent probably less than five per cent of the people who draw Employment Insurance at some point during the year. He said the new initiative is in place to make sure they don’t slip through the cracks.
The program was announced in the Federal budget in February, but it only got rolled out in late April and is being administered at the provincial level.
In P.E.I., the program is being administered by Workplace Learning P.E.I. which provides essential skills training and also approaches employers about taking seasonal employees back early.
“This funding came with a requirement that individuals who take part in the program would get an element of the essential skills training,” explained Lori Johnston, executive director of Workplace Learning.
“Some people might feel it’s not a benefit when they have to go for training, but when they do start the training they feel it is a benefit,” said Johnston who explained the training is very responsive and geared to the individual.
Through Workplace Learning, up to three weeks of individualized training can be provided for those who cannot find work immediately. Those who do find work immediately can attend training a half day to one day a week. Workplace Learning has access to Holland College campuses for providing Essential Skills.
“The individual calls to express an interest in the program,” Johnston explains the process. “We have them fill out an application, or we can do that over the phone.”
Islanders interested in accessing the program can visit https://www.workplacelearningpei.com or call (902)368-6280.
Once an application is submitted, Skills PEI will contact the employer where the employee expects to be returning to work to see if there is a possibility for the employee to be hired back earlier. Wage subsidies are available.
Johnston noted some tourism operators have been able to hire workers back early because of the subsidy and they benefit from the help in getting their properties ready for the season.
But the big benefit, she said, is with the employee who gets extra weeks of income, and, therefore, gets a longer E.I. claim next year which helps to reduce the E.I. gap.
Approximately 30 applicants have been assisted since the program was announced three weeks ago and Johnston said awareness in the program is growing.
“I’m pleased there is a recognition within the ministry and by the minister himself, that changes must come to ensure that these people are captured in the system,” Morrissey commented. He said the mechanisms will help insure that vulnerable workers don’t exhaust their benefits before their traditional work begins.
Employment and Social Development Canada is reallocating $10 million from existing departmental resources in 2018-19 to provide income support and training to seasonal workers in P.E.I., New Brunswick and the Gaspe region of Quebec who qualify. Prince Edward Island is in line to receive $1.1 million this year.