SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN -- (Marketwired) -- 06/12/13 -- Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, was joined today by Chief Austin Bear of Saskatchewan's Muskoday First Nation, Chief Felix Thomas of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, and Ray Ahenakew, President, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies, to announce details of the Harper Government's investments in skills training for on-reserve Income Assistance clients.
"Our Government, First Nation parents, leaders and youth all agree: Aboriginal youth should have the same opportunities as all Canadians to find, keep and enjoy the benefits of a good job," said Minister Valcourt. "These investments will help to provide personalized supports for Aboriginal youth so that they can secure the skills training that will help them find a job and achieve the self-sufficiency they deserve."
The Harper Government is investing $241 million in new funding to help First Nation youth between the ages of 18 and 24 get personalized job and skills training. These investments will be targeted to First Nation youth receiving Income Assistance, providing them with access to a wider, more personalized range of training, education and career counseling programs that will help them get jobs.
Specifically, the Government will provide an additional $132 million over four years for Enhanced Service Delivery to support First Nations in identifying individuals' employment needs and to assist in overcoming barriers to employment. First Nation organizations that receive funding for enhanced service delivery must implement mandatory participation in personalized case management for Income Assistance recipients between the ages of 18 and 24. This approach is consistent with existing social assistance programming in provinces and territories. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) will incrementally implement the initiative across the country, starting with communities that are most ready and willing, and where there are specific opportunities to access the job market.
The Government will also be increasing the availability of training services through a new First Nations Job Fund. This fund will provide $109 million over four years so that Active Measures participants will have access to necessary training and employment services support, such as skills assessments, personalized training, and job coaching. This fund will be administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) primarily through its existing Aboriginal Skills, Employment and Training Strategy (ASETS). The federal government has already allocated $1.68 billion to ASETS over five years to support First Nations, Metis and Inuit individuals in their pursuit of employment.
"Equipping First Nation people to fully participate in today's economy is integral to our Government's strategy to connect Canadians with available jobs. With the proximity of many First Nation communities to large economic projects, First Nation youth are well positioned to take advantage of economic opportunities," said the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. "The First Nations Job Fund will provide personalized job training to young Income Assistance clients, so they can access training that they need to secure jobs."
This approach will build on the success of recent pilot projects and partnerships being undertaken across Canada, where the Government of Canada has been working with the provincial governments, First Nations and the private sector to link First Nations with training and jobs. In the coming weeks AANDC will work with First Nations, First Nation organizations and other interested parties to outline the required steps and criteria for accessing these new investments.
"As a leader of a First Nation I know that we need a new system that can truly support betterment for Aboriginal youth," said Muskoday First Nation Chief Austin Bear. "Active measures projects and changes to programs, such as those promoted today are welcomed here in Saskatchewan."
"Preparing our youth to transition into the workforce is an effort that requires investment, support and participation from First Nations, industry and government," explained Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas. "By engaging this country's fastest growing demographic through skills and career assessments, training opportunities and, subsequently, employment choices, we are putting into place the stepping stones towards a brighter quality of life for our youth and the rest of the country."
"Investment in youth through their education and training is key to their long term independence and personal sustainability," said SIIT's Mr. Ahenakew. "Today's announcement will build on the success of active measures pilot projects and provide an even greater number of First Nation youth with the same opportunities as all other Canadians."
The Government of Canada currently invests approximately $838 million per year in Income Assistance payments to 87,113 clients and their families living on reserve. This represents an increase in expenditures of more than $200 million over the past decade. Under the current program, 162,925 residents on reserve benefit from Income Assistance. The federal on-reserve Income Assistance program has been in existence for almost 50 years now. In that time it has not kept pace with the changing needs of the Canadian job market, or those of Aboriginal youth.
Backgrounder - Income Assistance Reform: Enhanced Service Delivery
Backgrounder - First Nations Job Fund
Backgrounder - Income Assistance: Perspectives on Active Measures
This release is also available on the Internet at www.aandc.gc.ca.
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Office of the Honourable Bernard Valcourt
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
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