One is a former sailor looking to become an electrician; one is doing a volunteer internship in hopes of breaking into full-time work; one is an ex-lawyer studying power engineering technology. Here's what they took away from the federal budget and its plans to overhaul jobs training in Canada
Former tour boat Captain Tim Gregan stands at Purdy’s Wharf on the Halifax waterfront on March 21, 2013. PAUL DARROW
His circumstances: For the past 13 years, Mr. Gregan, a married father of three young girls, was the captain of a tall ship, the S/V Mar, which sails tourists around the Halifax Harbour. He worked nearly 10 months a year and collected employment insurance for the other two. As such, he was a “seasonal worker.” Approaching 40, he felt he needed a change and wanted to take advantage of the jobs that are expected to flow from the $25-billion shipbuilding contract by having “a trade in my back pocket.”
Choosing a new career: Mr. Gregan decided to become an electrician – it’s a four-year commitment but it is a very portable and in-demand job. Last September, he was accepted to an electrician program in Kentville, an hour away from Halifax.
Reaction to the budget: He feels let down by the federal budget and the new Canada Job Grants program. He believes it works for younger workers but not older ones. “It really doesn’t address the adult professional seasonal worker … assisting them to take a chance to go to school and round out their [skills].” His family circumstances allowed him to incur the extra costs of going back to school – but it may be harder for others.
- Jane Taber
Melissa Ricci is seen at her home in Milton, Ont., on March 21, 2013. KEVIN VAN PAASSEN
City: Milton, Ont.
Her circumstances: Since she graduated almost six months ago with a master’s degree in rural planning from the University of Guelph, Ms. Ricci has applied for more than 70 jobs. But she is still unemployed and points to the reality that even entry-level positions require years of work experience.
“They all ask for three to five years of experience for a junior position and I don’t have that,” says Ms. Ricci, a mother of two. “So I see that as my biggest obstacle.”
To improve her chances of landing a job, Ms. Ricci is doing a volunteer internship with a Greater Toronto Area municipality. She’s also planning to take more courses, including studying French.
Her budget wish list: Ms. Ricci wanted the federal government to set aside some contract positions for recent graduates looking to build their résumés, similar to the summer internships for students. She also urged Ottawa to provide incentives for the private sector to establish programs.
“They should have maybe a percentage of temporary jobs that have to be given to recent graduates just to get them exposed and let them gain some experience and skills in their sector or in their industry.”
Reaction to the budget: Ottawa missed an opportunity to help launch the careers of talented new graduates, Ms. Ricci says. “I think it’s unfortunate. Definitely that would help a lot of the people graduating with higher education, like graduate school or even PhD students, and people with careers like mine.”
Karen Wood is shown in a power engineering lab at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton on March 20, 2013. Ms. Wood is a lawyer retraining in power engineering. JASON FRANSON
City: Sherwood Park, Alta., just outside of Edmonton
Her circumstances: After seven years of university, Ms. Wood worked for more than a decade as a lawyer. She liked the work itself, but the hours were long and unpredictable, leaving her schedule at odds with that of her husband. “While I really liked what I did, it just wasn’t giving me a good quality of home life, really,” she says.
She began looking around, eventually choosing a career familiar to her family – power engineering technology, the same field as her husband. She quit her job as a lawyer in 2011 to take a two-year certification to work with pressure vessels and boilers. She’ll graduate this year.
Choosing a new career: The two-year program from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology will cost her about $15,000, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: The program’s figures show that 92 per cent of graduates find work within a year, and the median starting salary is $83,000.
That salary level was important, but so too was the job demand – she was concerned that, at 39, she could be passed over for younger applicants. “People are going to start looking at how old you are, you know, and whether or not they want someone like that to come in,” she says.
For Ms. Wood, it was the chance that she’d have more time at home, while getting paid hourly for working overtime – a perk she didn’t have in her salaried job as a lawyer.
Reaction to the budget: Had the newly announced Canada Job Grant program been in place, Ms. Wood might have applied to receive $15,000 in training funding split among the federal and provincial governments and her employer – but only if she actually had a prospective employer lined up when entering school. She didn’t. “It is a good incentive for employers to promise you employment to fill spots they need filled,” Ms. Wood says. Nonetheless, such a program would have smoothed the transition between careers, she says.
A focus on job training might turn attention to trades and certificate programs, she adds. Her class – 26 men, four women – is composed almost entirely of people who already knew someone in the field. It might also break the stigma.
“I also think there’s a bit of bias against this type of work. …The instructors, at first, they just could not believe it. They said, ‘Why would you give up your nice white-collar job to come and be a power engineer?’ But I’m not really status-motivated. But I think that’s what’s holding people back. They’re not looking at the benefits a career has to offer them.”