Manitoba boosts programs for summer youth employment

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The province is focusing on youth workers as they eye an eventual reopening of the economy this summer.

Premier Brian Pallister and Municipal Relations Minister Derek Johnson on Thursday announced $25 million in funding for youth employment programs this summer building off of previous programs.

“Youth unemployment rates typically in these last few months have been double the rest of the population and we’re committed to supporting Manitoba youth gain valuable work experience which they need to take advantage of future career opportunities,” said the premier.

The $15 million Manitoba Youth Jobs Program will give employers a 50% subsidy on wages paid to eligible employees from May to September with a maximum of $25,000 per employer. It is expected to benefit 2,000 businesses and 6,000 youth with seasonal and short-term employment opportunities.

This program is based on the Back to Work Initiative and Summer Student Recovery Jobs Program which last year had a $46 million commitment but paid out about $18.7 million.

The province has further tweaked this program to make it more accessible for businesses, including an advance payment of $750 per eligible employee, as opposed to a pure rebate program. It has also been expanded to include all Manitobans under the age of 30. Employers will also be able to claim employees dating back to April 1.

“We’ve been hearing from a lot of small business owners over the last few weeks who have been waiting for this kind of a program,” said Jonathan Alward, Prairie director for the Canadian Federation for Independent Business. “We’re really pleased because there were some businesses who felt they had to go out and hire students right away — you want to get the best student possible to fit with your business — and being able to take advantage of this program retroactively to April 1 is going to be a real positive step.”

He also added businesses are in need of direct support to help them through continued and increased health orders, preferably in the form of another instalment of Bridge Grant, which has previously given businesses $5,000 per month. Alward notes many businesses are not permitted to open their doors and hire back workers while others are not in a fiscal position to bring on more staff.

The remaining $10 million will go to an expanded Hometown Green Team program which will give grants to communities to hire youth aged 15-29 to work on projects. Non-profit organizations in Winnipeg and rural Manitoba are eligible to receive 100% of wage costs and $250 per position for support costs. Eligible municipal governments in rural Manitoba receive 50% of wage costs and $125 per position for support costs on a cost-shared basis.

“These opportunities give Manitobans the insight to gain valuable work experience, industry knowledge, promote community involvement and help develop our young leaders,” said Johnson, adding they have received requests for more than 700 programs already.