Job skills program losing part of budget with change to federal Job Grants

Carollyne Nemecek, executive director of the Pictou County Continuous Learning Association, otherwise known as PiCCoLA, said Monday that funding it receives from the federal government’s labour market agreement will probably end this April meaning its budget of $260,000 last year will be reduced to $93,000 in 2014.

“When PiCCoLA first started it was the basics and then we had five great years with the labour market agreement money and we did many great things,” she said.

The worst-case scenario for the funding cuts means that one full-day class in New Glasgow will be gone as of April 1 and four staff members will have to be laid off.

The program will also have to be downsized to a shorter school year and its life skill workshops that offer first aid, WHMIS, mental health first aid and food handler courses will also be eliminated.

She said a transition project that is one of a kind in the province and offers an eight-month course for students who need to upgrade their Grade 12 or obtain their GED will also abruptly come to an end in April rather than running through to August. One-on-one resource help for people who need a little extra help with their studies or have trouble working in groups will also end, she said.

“There are a lot of people out there that don’t have their Grade 12,” she said. “The people we have in our program are the brave ones that come forward and say they need help.”

She said the program had 75 participants this year with classes taking place in Pictou, New Glasgow and Stellarton, but last year’s numbers peaked at 120 people. Its students must be 19 years of age, out of school for a year and not have a high school diploma.

“We have success stories,” she said. “I received a note about a gentleman the other day from one of our night classes that got this GED in December and got a great job in Saskatchewan.”

She said the federal government is using the money from the LMA for its Job Grants initiative that will see the federal and provincial governments as well the employer each chip in $5,000 for a person wanting to access training for jobs in high-demand fields.

However, Nemecek said, the Job’s Grant Program will not be helping people get the basic education. 

“You can’t get a job without an education,” she said. “Some of our students come to us to get their GED’s because they are working, but aren’t eligible for a promotion without it.”

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