Making it Count

The latest Canadian federal budget, just released, has given a few goodies to workers (and employers) in the run up to the next election. What will be gained?

The first is the Canada Training Benefit, which gives workers between the ages of 25 and 64 who make between $10,000 and $150,000 a tax break for job retraining. The tax credit can be used for job retraining up to a lifetime limit of $5,000. Secondly, the other piece of the job-retraining program is focused on the time it takes workers to take those courses. A new benefit, the EI Training Support Benefit, administered through employment insurance, will give people up to four weeks of income support to take training, every four years, with up to $1,000 to help cover lost income.

It’s hard to know who is benefiting more from these initiatives – workers or their employers, or both. Some, like David Macdonald, of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, believe employers should have to pay for some of the training-related programs. Said Macdonald in published reports: “Employers are probably the big winners out of this. They don’t pay any of the money and they get better-trained employees as a result.”

The hope, however, is that better and a more up-to-date workforce will be created and, of course, enhance the productivity and efficiency of the workplace. But perhaps the government needs to go further. Rather than focusing on generic training needs, there should have been more attention paid to the areas of the economy that need training – giving workers (and their employers) incentive to get training where it will most benefit the current and future economy, rather than simply have people take open-ended training.

Some consultations are still on going between the government, workers, employers and educational institutions (and training providers) to finalize the design of the EI Training Support Benefit. Let’s hope the government hears and listens to the needs of the market and adopt a program that is targeted to suit our economic needs.

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