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EDITORIAL: Federal Skills and Training Budget Overview

By: Angela Splinter

The 2019 federal budget introduced in March is indeed a skills and training budget. It promises money for big-ticket items that can improve human resources management for trucking and logistics employers, while making it easier for workers to get the skills they need to be valuable and productive.

Politics aside, that’s good news for an industry where training plays such a vital role in safety, job satisfaction, and opportunities for advancement.

There’s another silver lining: unlike the three previous budgets, this one calls for no substantial changes to the Canada Labour Code. That was welcome news, considering we have enough on our plate already in that regard.

That said, there are still plenty of items in the budget for trucking and logistics employers to consider. Let’s take a closer look.

Canada Training Benefit
At $1.7 billion over five years, the Canada Training Benefit is designed to help Canadians offset the cost of education and job training. Starting in the 2020 tax year, every Canadian between 25 and 64 years of age earning between $10,000 and $150,000 a year will be eligible for a non-taxable training credit of $250 per year, with a stackable lifetime maximum of $5,000.

Additionally, an employment insurance (EI) Training Support Benefit is available to provide up to four weeks’ paid leave every four years at 55% of the worker’s average weekly earnings. This benefit is meant to support workers who need to take time away from their jobs while they’re in training and not receiving a regular paycheck. This will begin in late 2020.

Of particular interest for trucking and logistics employers are the leave provisions and EI premium rebates.

In the coming months, the federal government will consult with workers, employers, educational institutions, and training providers, as well as provincial officials, to finalize a framework for the EI Training Support Benefit and leave provisions.

In terms of rebates, there will be premium rebates on EI payments for small businesses (that pay less than $20,000 in EI payments) to offset the increase in EI premiums due to the Canada Training Benefit.

Wage subsidies
There is lots of money to divvy out here, and there are indications that trucking and logistics employers may now have a better chance to tap into it.

One area is the student-work integrated learning program. This was announced in a previous budget (2017) and included $70 million in wage subsidies to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-focused employers.

The new budget expands this program beyond STEM, with $631.2 million over five years. This is welcome news as our industry has been unable to access these wage subsidies.

Trucking HR Canada will work alongside our partners, including the Canadian Trucking Alliance, and continue our conversations around how a strategy for our industry can be implemented.

Promoting the trades
Given the government’s focus on STEM, it’s refreshing to see it make a $6-million investment to promote skilled trades and technologies as a first-choice career option for young people. While this funding is earmarked for Skills Canada, there could be potential partnership opportunities for our industry.

Workplace diversity
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will receive $5 million to develop a strategy to better measure, monitor, and address gender disparity in Canada’s workplaces.

We are working with ESDC through our labor market information project to ensure that the needs of our industry will be included as it promotes the availability of skills and training to under-represented groups.

No matter how you lean politically, the 2019 federal budget starts a conversation about the training workers need to be prepared for the future and how to fund it. Trucking HR Canada will be part of that discussion, ensuring the trucking and logistics industry’s needs are met.

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