Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and distinguished members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to describe Employment and Social Development Canada skills and training programs.
As you know, Canada is experiencing the effects of an aging population, rapid technological change and globalization that have put a strain on productivity growth and competitiveness. Canadians are experiencing these changes through shifts in the labour market that are reshaping the nature of jobs and raising the level of skills and education required to be successful.
In this context, Canada's prosperity will increasingly depend on an inclusive labour market, where all Canadians are equipped with the skills that they need for the changing nature of work, and where employers are able to access the skilled labour they need to be innovative and competitive.
I am pleased to share with you some of the work that ESDC is doing to address these priorities. Let me start with youth. We know that Canada's prosperity will increasingly depend on creating a pathway to success in education and employment for our young Canadians. Helping young people gain the skills, abilities, and work experience they need to find and maintain good employment will be key to laying the foundation for their success in the labour market over their lifetime. To tackle this challenge, ESDC invests approximately $330 million per year in the youth employment strategy.
Budget 2016 made additional investments of over $278 million, bringing the total funding for 2016-17 to more than $606 million. With this investment, we doubled the number of Canada summer jobs available to young Canadians, which was over 60,000 jobs.
Budget 2017 proposed an additional $395.5 million over three years, starting in 2017-18, for additional work and skills development opportunities for youth. Combined with the 2016 measures, these investments will help more than 33,000 vulnerable youth develop the skills they need to find work or go back to school, create 15,000 new green jobs for young Canadians, and provide over 1,600 new employment opportunities for youth in the heritage sector.
While a large part of Canada's success rests on supporting youth in successfully transitioning into the labour market, they still face barriers.
To assess the barriers faced by vulnerable youth in finding and keeping jobs, an expert panel on youth employment was launched in October 2016 and delivered its final report last spring, which will help guide our work on the renewal of the youth employment strategy.
As well, the new youth service initiative, which will be launched later this fall, will help young Canadians gain valuable work and life experience as they contribute through service to communities across Canada. This initiative will provide $105 million over five years and $25 million per year ongoing.
An important way ESDC is supporting successful transitions from studies to the workplace is through the student work-integrated learning program, which was launched in August of this year. The program provides funding support in the form of wage subsidies to employers to create new work placements for students enrolled in post-secondary education during their studies.
Through this program, ESDC is developing stronger linkages and partnerships between industry and post-secondary institutions by creating these new work-integrated learning opportunities, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math.
There are additional incentives available for placements created for students in under-represented groups, including women in STEM, indigenous students, persons with disabilities, and recent immigrants.
This program is expected to produce up to 10,000 new work placements over the next four years in several sectors, including biotechnology, information and communications technology, environment, aviation and aerospace.
As you know, there is a clear link between education and productivity. The department continues its efforts to facilitate access to post-secondary education by encouraging Canadians to save and by increasing access to, and the availability of, student financial assistance.
I am pleased to report that, further to budget 2016 commitments, enhancements to the Canada student loans program to increase the amount and availability of Canada student grants, as well as the measures to make student debt more manageable, have all been implemented.
In a changing economy, Canadians throughout their life need to embrace continuous learning and upgrade their skills so they can find and keep good jobs.
As part of Canada's innovation and skills plan, the government aims to encourage Canadians to upgrade their skills through several measures: by expanding eligibility for Canada student grants and loans; by making it easier for adult or mature learners to qualify for Canada student grants and loans; and, by making better use of the flexibilities in the EI program that allow EI claimants to pursue full-time, self-funded training while maintaining their EI status. Consultations with provinces and territories on these measures have begun with the view of an implementation date of the end of summer 2018, which will correspond with the start of the school year.
Turning to other areas of importance for improving Canada's overall productivity, the need to generate opportunities for those who are traditionally under-represented in the workplace remains of paramount importance. Maximizing the participation and better utilization of these under-represented groups will be key to addressing anticipated labour force and skills shortages and to supporting long-term growth.
ESDC provides a full continuum of services for indigenous people across the country, from pre-employment training, such as literacy, numeracy, and other essential skills, to more advanced technical training, and to employment for skilled jobs through the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, or ASETS. Over the past years, ASETS has served over 300,000 clients, with over 100,000 finding employment and close to 50,000 returning to school.
In response to growing demand from indigenous peoples for skills development and job training, budget 2017 announced an additional investment of $50 million for this strategy.
Going forward, indigenous skills and training remains a top mandate priority for Minister Hajdu. In the past year, we have engaged extensively with indigenous partners to see how we can improve and strengthen indigenous labour market programming through a longer-term strategy. Results of all of these consultations will be informing the renewal of the aboriginal skills and employment training strategy post 2018 and will ensure that we are meeting the training needs and improving the labour market outcomes of indigenous people.
To help newcomer immigrants overcome integration barriers and fully participate in the labour market, budget 2017 proposed the creation of a targeted employment strategy for newcomers. The strategy will include improved pre-arrival supports, a loan program to assist with the cost of foreign credential recognition, and targeted measures to help them gain Canadian work experience. It will also complement the work already being done in the department with provinces and territories on foreign credential recognition.
In addition to these federal programs, ESDC makes significant investments in skills and training through the labour market transfer agreements. Each year, the government invests nearly $3 billion through the agreements so that provinces and territories can offer a range of programs, from skills training to career counselling to job search assistance, to help the unemployed and under-employed improve their skills and get their next job.
Budget 2017 included significant additional funding and committed to reforming and consolidating the labour market transfer agreements to ensure that programs become simpler and more flexible to adapt to the changing jobs and skills needs. Key priorities under the new agreements will be to ensure that training and employment supports are more client focused, more responsive to employer needs, and informed by strong performance measurement and innovation. Negotiations with provinces and territories on the next generation of agreements have begun and are ongoing.
Speaking of skills training, the new organization for skills development and measurement announced in budget 2017 is still at the design stages, but it has the potential to greatly influence future investments in programming. The Advisory Council on Economic Growth and the Forum of Labour Market Ministers have recommended new approaches to tackle skills gaps and support lifelong learning. The new organization will work in partnership with willing provinces and territories, the private sector, educational institutions, and not-for-profits to address these issues by identifying the skills required by employers, exploring new innovative approaches to skills development, and sharing information on best practices and research to help inform future skills investments and programming.
With a better understanding of the in-demand skills, the new organization will support the development, testing, and evaluation of innovative approaches that will help employment training service providers to adapt to better meet employers' needs and evolving job demands.