July 8, 2015
A government plan to shut down centres in small towns that help unemployed people find jobs will hurt vulnerable workers, as well as local communities, according to SGEU.
Can-Sask Labour Market Services centres in Swift Current, Humboldt, Nipawin and Fort Qu’Appelle, run by the provincial Ministry of the Economy, are to be closed in August. The widely-used employment website, Saskjobs.ca, is administered by the Can-Sask centres.
“At a time when we are experiencing a slowdown in the oil patch, and potentially heading into a drought year, it doesn’t make sense to cut support and services to people – particularly in rural communities - who want to work, but need a little help to make that happen,” said Bob Bymoen, SGEU president.
The centres offer job seekers necessary supports, including personal career counselling, training in resume writing, access to an office where they can use computers, printers, photocopiers and the internet to help with their job search. On-site staff provide personalized support and advocacy, and connect those looking for work with various skills training and employment programs. Staff connect with local employers on a regular basis to update job postings on Saskjobs.ca.
People living with disabilities, employment insurance recipients, new Canadians, single parents, farmers making the transition to off-farm jobs are just some of the people who are helped by this service.
“It’s counter-productive to eliminate the support services that upskill people and get them into the work force,” says Bymoen. Cutting these centres will also be a loss for local businesses and non-profit organizations who often take on contracts to train or employ workers.
People who need help getting a job in these rural communities may have to seek services in a larger centre. “That would mean the one-on-one, personalized service will be lost. And, it could mean that basic but necessary support services will not be available on short notice, so there won’t be a nearby place to quickly type a cover letter, print a resume, or send a fax,” Bymoen adds.
“The reality is that people looking for work may not have a vehicle, so travelling long distances to get help is just not going to work,” he says.
The Swift Current region, for example, is huge, stretching from the U.S. border to the Alberta border to the South Saskatchewan River to Chaplin. If services are centralized in Moose Jaw, most people in the southwest would be forced to travel long distances to get the help they need.
“Telephone counselling might be the only option left to many rural people. But frontline workers say that approach just doesn’t adequately meet the often-complex needs of clients,” Bymoen notes. “You need a more personal connection with people to provide a meaningful human service.”
Ten public service workers, who provide counselling, support, information and advocacy, will lose their jobs as a result of the closure of the four centres. In addition, three similar positions will be eliminated from the labour services centre in Saskatoon, and one from the Regina centre.
“We need to do better. We need to give people the help they need to get back on their feet. It just doesn’t make sense to cut services that help grow our labour market, boost our local economies, and improve the day-today lives of families and communities,” according to Bymoen.
While the employment situation across the province is still relatively positive, there has been a decline in jobs in agriculture, forestry, mining, and the oil and gas sector in the last year. This job loss affects workers and their families in rural, northern and small town Saskatchewan, where centres are being closed.
“Government should be focusing on strengthening rural communities, not taking away more local services,” says Bymoen. “We urge government to rethink this decision, and to enhance, not eliminate, assistance for people – often in desperate straits – who need a helping hand.”
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