The Government of Ontario announced it is investing an additional $160 million in the Skills Development Fund (SDF) to tackle the labour shortage and help at least 100,000 workers get free training to meet the needs of employers hiring in their communities. The funding will prioritize programs that propose innovative training solutions to help people on social assistance and with prior criminal records find meaningful employment in critical industries like healthcare, auto-manufacturing, information technology, hospitality and the skilled trades.

“For too long, too many in our community have been forgotten and treated as second class in their own province. In the middle of a historic labour shortage, we need all hands on deck,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. “That is why our government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure we give anyone who wants a job and a paycheque they can be proud of a shot at the Ontario dream. Whether you’ve been on social assistance for 10 months or 10 years, we’ll help you.”

According to the province, roughly 300,000 jobs in Ontario are going unfilled every day, which threatens to hold back the economy and the government’s ambitious infrastructure plans, including building at least 1.5 million homes by 2031. At the same time, more than 800,000 people in Ontario rely on social assistance when the majority are willing, able and eager to work. This includes hundreds of thousands of people who made a mistake in the past and carry a criminal record and have not reoffended – almost half of whom are on social assistance even 15 years after release from prison.

In response, the fourth round of the Skills Development Fund Training Stream will support programs that help them find meaningful work and tackle the labour shortage.

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The announcement was made in Dresden, where the government announced a $465,000 investment through a previous round of the Skills Development Fund Training Stream to prepare 24 young people for well-paying careers in construction and the skilled trades in Chatham-Kent. SkillShift will provide a free six-week introductory course that teaches participants essential skills for construction, such as blueprint reading, scissor lift certifications, as well as financial literacy and soft skills, with mentors, networking opportunities and $1,125 for equipment and transportation. Participants will also receive a paid two-week job placement with a local employer.

“Through this transformative $465,000 investment, the Government of Ontario is shaping brighter futures for 24 youth in Chatham-Kent while invigorating our local construction industry,” said Phillip Mock, Executive Director at Vision Us. “Vision Us is excited to be leading this investment in our community with our partners.”

Through its first three rounds, the Skills Development Fund has supported 596 projects in a variety of sectors, helping half a million people take the next step in their careers, including people with disabilities, auto workers, firefighters and construction workers.

The announcement brings Ontario’s total investment in the Skills Development Fund Training Stream to over $860 million.

“Our government believes in second chances, and we know that comebacks are possible. Providing free labour training to those with criminal records who want to contribute to Ontario’s economy will result in a safer Ontario. The Skills Development Fund not only builds careers that move our economy forward, but it also provides second chances to Ontarians, so they aren’t left behind,” said Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General.

Featured image: (Government of Ontario)

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