CORNER BROOK — With March 31 quickly approaching, and no word yet from the provincial government on funding, organizations that offer employment services are starting to get concerned.
Some 71 organizations provide employment services in the province. The services are funded through the Labour Market Development Agreement, which is administered by the Department of Advanced Education and Skills. The current contracts run out at the end of the month.
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons raised the issue in the House of Assembly on Wednesday. In a prepared statement Parsons said these organizations are in panic mode over the lack of communication from government on whether their contracts will be renewed. He also said there are concerns the people who provide these services will be laid off.
Susanne Ingram, executive director of the Gateway Women’s Centre in Port aux Basques, is worried the funding won’t come through.
“Come March 31 do I have an employment counsellor or do I not? I don’t know that, I can’t tell you that,” said Ingram.
She said the centre’s funding proposal has been in the hands of government since before Christmas, and up to Thursday there has been no word on it.
“And this is the first time this has ever happened to us.”
The centre has one employment counsellor who provides assistance to about 120 women a year in the area between Codroy Valley and Rose Blanche.
“And that service is so important because she meets with women for the most part who have barriers to employment, and women who are returning to school or job searching, and she does a lot of workshops and presentations on employment skills,” said Ingram.
“I’m starting to get in the panic mode, to be honest with you, because it is a very important service. I’m just praying that it is going to come through.”
Over at the Community Education Centre Edwina Bateman also expressed concern over the situation.
“I am concerned because the deadline is fast approaching and we have not heard from the department yet in terms of negotiating our next contract,” said the executive director of the Port aux Basques-based centre.
The centre serves the area from South Branch to Rose Blanche, and is an employment agency for individuals with employment barriers. People who are employment disadvantaged and who have physical, developmental or learning disabilities.
She said these people are vulnerable and depend on the centre’s services to assist them.
A large number of the centre’s clients are employed by area businesses and require support staff.
The centre employs 28 unionized support workers, who are not funded by the Labour Market Development Agreement, to provide that service.
Bateman said the operation of the centre would be significantly impacted if its contract is not renewed.
“If our operational contract is not renewed, well obviously the support staff contract is null and void, too.
“The support staff can’t operate without the corporation.”
Meanwhile, Christine Young, executive director of the Humber Community YMCA in Corner Brook, said she was no more concerned with the situation than any time a contract is up.
“I have my own personal apprehensions, but I always have these apprehensions with any contract when it comes time to renew, is it going to be renewed or not,” she said.
The Y operates its Youth Employment Services through the funding. The service employs two employment counsellors and a program administrator. It focuses on the 29 and under age group and provides job search assistance, instruction in resume writing, employment counselling and help with applying for education funding.
“Anything as it pertains to youth issues when it comes to securing employment or securing education to gain employment,” said Young.
Like the other organizations the Y has submitted its funding application, and Young hoped it would have heard some thing by now.
“We are cautiously confident, that it will be (renewed). We haven’t been given any indication that there’s going to be any changes.
“But nothing is guaranteed until it’s stamped, signed, delivered ... that yes you’ve been approved,” said Young.