Training Before and After the Crisis

The 2008 Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report provides some useful information on the state of active labour market policy in Canada before the recession, much more, in fact, than in previous reports.

EI Part II Funds are transferred to the provinces through Labour Market Development Agreements (or LMDAs) which are used (almost entirely) to provide employment benefits (programs) or support measures (services) to the unemployed (EI claimants plus recent claimants.) $1.8 Billion in total was spent on employment benefits and support measures in 2007-08, of which $1.2 Billion was spent on employment benefits. This category includes programs other than skills training for the unemployed, such as support for the classroom component of apprenticeship training, support to unemployed Canadians entering self-employment, targeted wage subsidies to employers who hire unemployed workers, and job creation partnerships.

What surprised me is how few unemployed workers get actual skills training. In 2007- 08, there were just 83,000 new participants in skills development programs (not counting apprentices on classroom training) – the ones which fund skills training – and 37,000 of them were in Quebec which has by far the best developed training programs in the country. (See Annex 3.6) There were just 15,000 participants in Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador trained more unemployed workers than BC (about 6,000 each.)

The last federal Budget grandly announced $1 Billion over 2 years to provide EI funded training for 100,000 more Canadians (with money going to the provinces based on the number of unemployed), and $500 Million to fund training benefits for the long – term unemployed who buy their own skills training . Minister Finley said she wanted to fund training rather than to provide income benefits to the unemployed to just sit around at home.

I’m all for more investment in skills training – but one does have to wonder if we (meaning most of the provinces) have the institutional capacity to ramp up skills training this much, this fast, and how much workers who get into the system will get out of it. The system is already heavily tilted to fly by night private trainers and diploma mills as opposed to community college and some other not for profit providers of good quality, certified, portable skills training. That shows in rather poor evaluation studies which indicate that 85% of those entering skills development programs get no benefit in terms of added hours per year of work compared to non participants, and 66% get no increase in earnings as a result. (See Chapter 5, Table 4.)


  • I agree, it would be much better to expand funding for postsecondary education directly instead of paying crappy private sector colleges into bullying EI recipients around.

    For the next recession, we should have some kind of a counter-cyclical fund that allows colleges and universities to fill more seats. Since grant-funded research dollars are down, there should be more educator hours available for teaching. And there should be more master trades workers available for teaching trades courses. Unfortunately you would have to line up this kind of program years ahead of time, so that you don’t have two years of “outside lag.”

  • wrapping ones populace within a culture of training and education is the centerpiece of an economy that rests upon the spring board of innovation.

    It is such an easy concept, yet for some reason we see little in the way of such change. These numbers verify that the policy makers in this country have little understanding of implementing such braod based plans. Tuition climbs, research funding cut, shortages of skilled trades and an EI training regimen severely in question given those numbers.

    Is it that difficult to change direction? Billion and billions for bankers and money traders, yet again, training is ignored and thrown to the back burner. Is anybody in the policy circles actually reading such statistics?

    Why can’t we have a more legitimate attempt at retraining and adjustment. Temp agencies and fly by night training initiatives, will get your economy exactly where we are heading, “in the ditch by the side of the farm”.

    Quite frustrating reading these numbers.


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