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Saskatchewan to pick up $3 million tab for Skip The Dishes job training

Large, one-off provincial job creation grant for Skip the Dishes raising fairness concerns

REGINA – Skip The Dishes serves up delivery drivers that connect restaurants with customers. Starting soon they’ll also be offering a new menu item; job training.

Thanks to a partnership with the provincial government, the tech company will be creating up to 300 new jobs in their Saskatoon corporate office. Training for jobs in areas like engineering, designing, and senior management will be run through institutions like Innovation Place.

In times when the resource economy is slowing it’s hard to find people critical of job creation, but some eyebrows are being raised by the price tag.

Skip the Dishes is eligible to collect up to $3 million to pay for the job training.

“For every person that we bring on that’s a full time employee, we have up to $10,000 per person in eligible training expense that we can claim,” company CEO Joshua Simair explained.

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The province putting up $10,000 per person for training programs like this is not unheard of. Most companies that partnered with the economy ministry have received similar amounts in the past.

However, the sheer amount of training grants being given to Skip The Dishes is unconventional. Deputy Economy Minister Laurie Pushor says this is to make sure these tech jobs stay in the province, especially with the rapid growth of Skip The Dishes.

“Their pace of growth really presented some challenges to try and fit them into some of our more highly structured programming elements, so we decided to create a unique program for them and see how that works,” he explained.

Pushor added that the ministry is open to work with any company or business that is interested in advanced training initiatives. However, once the budget is presented on June 1, they shouldn’t expect the same pay day.

“We’re simply not going to be able to afford to provide that same sort of training allowances per job going forward, just because of where the budget’s at,” Premier Brad Wall said on Wednesday.

In the 2016/17 fiscal year Skip The Dishes is eligible for up to $1.75 million, and $1.25 million the next year.

Wall said this isn’t the case of picking economic winners and losers, but investing in job creation and furthering economic diversity.

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The NDP’s employment critic Warren McCall says this said this is a case of picking favourites

“There are $3 million reasons why this is very much a circumstance of picking one winner and closing the door on other organizations that would be interested in the same opportunity,” McCall said.

Skip The Dishes, which set up their national headquarters in Winnipeg back in 2014, is no stranger to these kind of government partnerships.

In June 2014 they received a roughly $403,000 grant from Manitoba, plus a $5.5 million training grant in December 2015 to create 500 jobs.

Simair said these partnerships are because he wants to grow the tech industry in the prairies after talking to many Canadians working and living in Silicon Valley down in San Francisco.

“We’re big promoters of Saskatchewan. I like to think I’m one of the biggest cheerleaders of the prairies in general. So I’m just a shameless promoter of our home area.”

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