Alberta cutting training programs amid zero job growth

New AFL research shows Alberta cut job training by $23 million despite increased need by aboriginals and young workers

EDMONTON, June 3 /CNW/ - Alberta is the only province in Canada that hasn't seen job growth since last summer, but the province is cutting employment training programs by more than $20 million, affecting aboriginals and youth the most.

"The government had in place a number of very successful programs that helped aboriginals and youth overcome obstacles and find meaningful work," says Mike Sutherland, a former job-placement co-ordinator with Native Counselling Services in Edmonton. "The stats show us that these programs are needed now more than ever."

While all other provinces have seen positive job growth since July 2009, Alberta alone has a stubbornly poor record of job creation.

The most recent Labour Force Survey showed unemployment among aboriginal people continues to rise. Aboriginal unemployment (both men and women, off-reserve aboriginal people) rose to 17 per cent in early 2010, up from 14 per cent in 2009. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high at 12.6 per cent, up from 11.4 per cent just a year ago.

At the same time, a recent AFL analysis shows Alberta dramatically cut job training programs in the last budget, especially for youth and aboriginal people.

The government of Alberta cut employment training programs by $23 million for 2010. Alberta's unemployment rate hit a 14-year high in March 2010, reaching 7.5 per cent for the first time since 1996.

Youth and summer employment programs saw 25 per cent of their budget disappear between 2009 and 2010, while upgrading and skills development was cut by 16 per cent. Aboriginal skills development experienced a seven per cent reduction. A further $10 million will be chopped from career development and programs that partner with industry.

Most other jurisdictions in the Group of 20 (G20) industrialized nations continue to increase employment and training program budgets.

"These job training programs were things that the government should be proud of. They showed how a small investment in people has a large return, many times over," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "We urge the Government of Alberta to rethink these cuts to these most important services and restore funding to employment training programs."

Sutherland saw first -hand how employment programs like Quest for Success helped aboriginal people overcome obstacles to getting and keeping meaningful employment. "Through concentration on personal development, the people I worked with were able to learn how to do all the practical things that many of us take for granted - things like budgeting and other life skills that are vital to getting and keeping work. Programs like Quest for Success taught these basic skills and the outcome was obvious."


           Employment Training Program Cuts and Unemployment Rates

             Employment Training Programs in Alberta, 2009-2010

                                           2009         2010 Budget
                                         Forecast        Estimates
    Employment Program                (in millions)    (in millions)   % Cut
    Youth Connections                       7.50            5.51     -26.59%
    Career Development Services            60.02           52.41     -12.68%
    Basic Skills/Academic Upgrading        27.48           22.93     -16.55%
    Summer Temporary Employment             9.56            7.41     -22.48%
    Workforce Partnerships                 11.52            7.56     -34.36%
    Aboriginal Development Partnerships     3.68            3.41      -7.39%

                    Alberta Unemployment Rates, 2008-2010

                                            2008          2009          2010
    Unemployment Rates, Alberta            April         April         April
    General Population                     3.30%         6.00%         7.40%
    Youth aged 15-24                       6.40%        10.90%        12.60%
    Aboriginal Peoples (off-reserve)       7.90%        16.90%        17.00%

SOURCE Alberta Federation of Labour

For further information: For further information: Media contact: Mike Sutherland @ (780) 886-5252; Gil McGowan, President, AFL @ (780) 483-3021 or (780) 218-9888 (cell)

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