For as long as I have been around, the trucking industry has rightly complained about the lack of funding available to employers and employees in our industry for training. Usually this is focussed on driver training. While there are exceptions (the Ontario truck driver apprenticeship program being an example), for the most part the major source of funds has been through the EI program, which is of no assistance to existing employees or most prospective employees, such as young people looking to get into the workforce for the first time.
That has changed. At least for the time being a window of opportunity has opened and carriers should take note of.
Last year, former federal minister of employment and social development (ESDC), Jason Kenney, announced a new program – the Canada Jobs Grant (CJG) – for helping employers train new or existing employees for any jobs that need to be filled within their companies. At first, a number of the provinces balked at the program as it changed the way training funds were transferred to them from the feds. However, since then agreements have been negotiated with all the provinces (except Quebec which has its own program) and the provinces are responsible for the design and delivery of the CJG in their jurisdictions. It is expected the program will make about $300 million per year available while it is in existence.
The program is available to all types of businesses and any kind of job. In our sector that means drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, office staff – anyone really.
The Canada Job Grant provides up to $15,000 per person for training costs, including such things as tuition and training materials. Basically, the way the program works is government (federal/provincial) is prepared to contribute two-thirds of the training costs, up to a maximum of $10,000, per current or future employee. The employer has to contribute a minimum of a third of the training costs. Depending on the region, small businesses may be able to make a portion of their contribution through paid wages.
While the program includes current or future employees, there are some provisos that carriers should be aware of. For example, the training for which funding is being sought can’t replace mandatory training. It has to be provided by a third party trainer (e.g. community or career colleges, training union centers, private trainers, etc.) in a variety of settings (classrooms, online, workplace, etc.). Unfortunately, in-house training does not qualify. (The governments’ thinking is they shouldn’t pay for training you are or should be doing yourself already).
Of course, there is an application process to access the funding and you have to have a plan. And, while completing the application does not appear to be overly arduous, this is often a stumbling block for many carriers who feel they don’t have the time or resources for any more government paperwork. While it’s unrealistic to expect the government to fork over taxpayer dollars without some form of application, there is a solution to that too. Our partner, Trucking HR Canada, is prepared to assist you for a small fee. For a handy “Funds for Fleets” guide or to find out how to contact Trucking HR Canada for more information, to determine your eligibility or support and liaison with your provincial government, click here.
Applications for CJG funding are currently being accepted on an ongoing basis. While there is currently no specific deadline to apply, there is a limit on the total funds available. Once it’s gone it’s gone and we do not know at this time whether additional funds would be made available and/or for what time period. Companies from other industries are already moving on this. So if motor carriers want to access the funds while they are available, my suggestion would be to act soon and get your applications in.
By seeking to have the driving occupation classified as a skilled occupation, it is our hope that one day the funds made available for training in other “trades” will also be made available for truck driver training. There is work underway on this at the federal level and in many provinces through CTA and the provincial associations but we are not there yet. In the meantime, the Canada Jobs Grant appears to provide an opportunity that may be of interest to carriers.