Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-23, which seeks to create the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development.
As members know, legislation is required to formalize changes of the former Department of Human Resources Development announced by the Prime Minister in December 2003. It is important to underline that these changes were made through a series of orders in council pursuant to an act of Parliament which is known as the Public Service Rearrangement and Transfer of Duties Act.
The bill gives the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development all of the legal powers and tools needed to fulfill its mandate. The mandate of the new department is to help Canadians acquire the skills they need to find productive and meaningful work, because we all know the best security to unemployment is a job. That is why HRSD is at work in communities across this country.
The department has helped more than 667,500 Canadians in 2003-04 through active measures under the EI Act. We are assisting unemployed Canadians to reintegrate into the workforce. We also help young people under the youth employment strategy to gain work experience, continue their education or enter the workforce.
Through HRSDC alone, during the year 2003-04 over 74,000 young Canadians found employment or returned to school as a result of the youth employment strategy. Each year the Government of Canada's youth employment strategy invests approximately $400 million to ensure that Canada's youth can participate and succeed in today's challenging labour market.
The youth employment strategy targets young people between the ages of 15 and 30 inclusive, and offers three focused programs: first, skills link; second, summer work experience; and third, career focus.
Through the youth employment strategy the Government of Canada is ensuring that Canada has a highly qualified and skilled labour force to meet the job market needs of today and tomorrow.
Yesterday some members were interested in knowing what this new department means for Canadians. I would like to take a moment to talk about one program under the youth employment strategy. It is called the skills link program. Skills link targets youth facing barriers to employment to ensure they gain the employability skills and work experience they need to succeed in the labour force. Youth facing barriers include single parents, aboriginal youth, youth with disabilities, new immigrants, youth in rural and remote areas and high school drop-outs.
Local HRSD offices offer a client centred approach to meet the individual needs of youth over longer periods of time. These include services that support youth in developing basic employment skills and develop individual action plans to enable the young people to work on a series of activities that are tailored to meet their individual employment needs and career goals.
Youth participants in the skills link program work on their action plan until they find and keep a job or return to school to improve their skills or qualifications. Many investments are paying off. The youth unemployment rate has decreased almost four points since 1993 to 13.4% in October and youth employment rose by 10,000 jobs in October.
In addition to youth programs, the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development supports organizations that support our citizens, developing the most effective route for productive employment through learning and acquiring literacy and other essential skills so necessary in all occupations.
Whether it is through the Canada education savings grant, the Canada student loans program, the proposed Canada learning bond or contributions to literacy, the government is supporting children and their families in realizing their learning goals.
HRSD also supports families in another way, by funding projects that support family literacy. Literacy and essential skills, such as an ability to work in teams, are the building blocks for lifelong learning and career development.
We have also improved the Canada student loans program, providing a new grant of up to $3,000 for students from low income families to cover some of the tuition of first year students.
Learning also needs to occur in and around the workplace. This explains why we are working with the provinces and territories, business, unions, workers generally and sector councils, to develop a workplace skills strategy.
The strategy focuses on adult workers and how we can improve their opportunities to enhance their skills for an ever changing workplace. Under the workplace skills strategy we would like to build a highly skilled and resilient workforce, build a productive labour market, and respond to employers' needs.
In the last budget we announced $25 million over the next three years to help replace outdated equipment for trades training in union-employer training centres. Budget 2004 committed a further $5 million per year over four years to sector councils to better integrate skilled immigrants into the Canadian labour market. This builds on the total of $40 million over five years announced in the 2003 budget to help create a foreign credential recognition program.
HRSD is spearheading this program by working with the provinces and territories, licensing and regulatory bodies, professional associations and other stakeholders. Our goal is to build a strong labour market where all human resources are taken into account and where everyone can acquire the skills they need to find productive, meaningful work. HRSD is leading the way.
These are a few examples of the tangible programs and initiatives that Canadians can experience through the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development.
Bill C-23 is good legislation that ensures Canadians of all ages can benefit from increased opportunities to participate in our labour force. Accordingly, I think it is very important that the House support Bill C-23 to help us reach the goals of making sure that our labour market force is developed as quickly as possible to the highest skill level that we possibly can and with the most efficiency in our government plan.