Ontario tabled its budget on March 28, 2018. It continues the Lifelong Learning and Skills Plan 2017 which announced a $185 million over four years in essential skills programming for adults. While Budget 2018 does not specifically reference the Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) program, a ministry backgrounder indicates a $25 million increase to the base budget in 2018-19. This funding will continue with initiatives started in 2017-18:
- Corrections Literacy Initiative
- Service delivery site (SDS) across-the-board funding to address static funding challenges
- Increased funding for service providers in areas highly in need of literacy services
- Support organization across-the-board increase
- e-Channel curriculum development and increased learners
In addition, new funds will be used for incremental increases, support to provincial organizations for curriculum development and digital skills training to providers.
Budget 2018 announced a new configuration of training programs under the banner of the Ontario Training Bank. An additional $63 million over 3 years will be used to create a one-stop shop for employers, job seekers and workers to access skills training. Falling under the Ontario Training Bank will be Second Career, the Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG), SkillsAdvance Ontario and the Sector Partnership Planning Grant. The Ontario Training Bank has a specific mandate to, among other objectives,
“Provide employers with access to essential skills upgrading, including digital literacy for their workers at no cost to the employer.”
The Ontario budget gave some specific information about the COJG going forward. You may recall that the new agreements were to be signed between the federal government and provinces/territories as of April 1, 2018 although funding began flowing in 2017-2018. Ontario announced its new version of the Job Grant – Employer Partnership Training Fund. Here’s how Budget 2018 describes the fund:
“The refreshed program will encourage employees [sic] to implement training programs to meet their hiring and skills needs, and also make it easier for small and medium-sized employers to access the fund. The new program, effective April 1, 2018, will:
• Incentivize employers to team up so that higher value training can be delivered across a number of employers to support hiring and skills needs.
• Simplify contribution requirements to reduce administrative burden for employers as well as service providers. Large employers who have greater capacity to invest in training will have higher cost-sharing contributions, thereby also freeing up resources to support more small and medium-sized employers.”
As Ontario had one of the most onerous processes to access Job Grant funds, I’m sure employers will welcome a reduction in administrative burden. The information provided in the budget is not enough to understand how exactly this Employer Partnership Training Fund differs from the COJG.
The Ontario Training Bank also incorporates SkillsAdvance Ontario which received $30 million over two years.
“SkillsAdvance Ontario (SAO) works to support local employers in key sectors to develop customized training programs that fill employers’ skills needs, help people find employment, and provide skills upgrading for workers. The program also provides training for vulnerable job seekers, including the long‐term unemployed, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, at‐risk youth and others, to provide access to in‐demand jobs.
“There are currently five SAO projects operating across the province in support of approximately 700 participants. These sector‐focused projects are in the construction, hospitality, automotive manufacturing, general manufacturing and energy sectors.”
I’m not familiar with the work of SAO but I hope that literacy and essential skills training and the expertise of LBS providers are being incorporated in the pilots.
The Ontario budget does not provide a line-by-line itemization of spending, so it is very difficult to see where the money is exactly going. We’ll have to wait and see what the impact of the new money is on LBS programming and how different, if at all, the new Employment Partnership Training Fund is from the COJG.
 Sector Partnership Planning Grant brings together partners—employers, training groups and employment and workforce planning agencies—to develop strategies that align training with the skills needed for their industry or sector to grow and compete in the new economy. Workforce strategies supported by the Sector Partnership Planning Grant help connect job seekers at all skills levels, including the least skilled, to the training they need for these jobs. http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/programs/sppg.html
 Ontario Budget 2018 – Budget Papers. Page 65.
 Ibid. Page 65