The Ontario government is committing $20 million to a new grant program aimed at addressing labour shortages in the province’s skilled trades.
The Group Sponsorship Grant program was announced by Labour Minister and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton during a news conference in London, Ont., on Friday.
The program is intended to help small- and medium-sized employers cover the costs of training and sponsoring apprentices.
Funding for the program is tied to a recovery plan announced in the 2020 Ontario budget aimed at repairing the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applications for the grant program opened on Friday. Successful applicants may receive up to $1 million in funding for a maximum of three years.
“We’re really looking at any type of application that’s creative (and) innovative,” McNaughton said.
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“For example, plumbing companies may come together into southwestern Ontario and if they bring on about 12 apprentices, that would mean a grant to those businesses of about $125,000.”
McNaughton told reporters on Friday that he hopes the grant program will respond to a pressing economic need.
“One in three journeypersons today is over the age of 55, so there’s a looming crisis in the skilled trades,” Ontario’s labour minister said.
“But in London and Middlesex, and Elgin and Oxford, we really need to get more welders, we need to get more industrial electricians, more machinists, more cooks and chefs and more people in the landscaping trade.”
The news comes on the heels of new figures from Statistic Canada, which showed London-St. Thomas region’s jobless rate is continuing to recover from a pandemic-related surge in unemployment
According to numbers released Friday morning, the London-St. Thomas unemployment rate for November was 8.4 per cent, down from 8.9 per cent in October and a far cry from the 12.6 per cent recorded in June.
November’s data marks the fifth consecutive month of job growth, with Mayor Ed Holder noting there have been 23,800 jobs gained since July.
Nationally, the economy added 62,000 jobs in November compared with an addition of 84,000 in October, as the labour market recovery from the impacts of the pandemic slowed down.
— With files from Global’s Jacquelyn Lebel