Provincial training plan will fill void left by EI reforms

The New Brunswick government is filling a void left by Ottawa's Employment Insurance reforms that could leave some seasonal workers without benefits.

Workers can receive 5 weeks of employment training until seasonal jobs start

The New Brunswick government is stepping in to fill a gap vacated by Ottawa’s Employment Insurance reforms that could leave some seasonal workers without benefits.

The federal government is ending a pilot project that extended Employment Insurance benefits by five weeks to certain workers. The pilot project bridged a gap between the end of an individual’s EI benefits and the start of a seasonal job.

Premier David Alward made the announcement in Tracadie-Sheila on Friday and urged affected workers to contact the provincial government to see if they would qualify for the initiative.

"Starting March 18, programming and financial assistance will be offered to those seasonal workers affected by the gap between their Employment Insurance claim ending and the beginning of their next seasonal employment opportunity," Alward said in a statement.

The provincial government has added staff to help deal with affected workers.

The provincial initiative will require affected workers to enroll in a five-week, 30-hour per week training program.

Workers can qualify for assistance of up to $250 per week, including eligible living expenses during the training.

According to the Department of Post-Secondary Training and Labour, these courses will follow the Workplace Essential Skills curriculum. These courses cover issues, such as thinking skills, oral communication skills and digital literacy.

"These increased skill levels will assist them in finding or maintaining employment," said Labour Minister Danny Soucy in a statement.

The federal government's EI changes have been the source of intense criticism in recent months.

The Alward government studied the reforms and in a report drafted last year, it warned the changes could have a serious impact on New Brunswick.

New Brunswick is traditionally one of the most heavily dependent provinces on Employment Insurance benefits.

In March 2012, there were 43,410 regular EI recipients in New Brunswick, which represents 6.3 per cent of all EI beneficiaries in Canada. New Brunswick’s share of the population is 2.2 per cent.

Among the EI changes, frequent collectors of EI will be asked to travel as far as 100 kilometres for a job and accept as much as 30 per cent less pay than their previous employment.

The federal government has also faced criticism over the home visits from bureaucrats to people on EI.