The executive director of a job-finding organization on the Southern Shore said she had no advance notice that her group's five offices would be closing down.


Loretta Ryan says her group helps 1,000 people each year look for work. (CBC)

"It was just like a bomb that hit us on Friday afternoon, it was awful," said Loretta Ryan with the Celtic Business Development Corporation.

"It's a hard thing to send your staff home on a Friday afternoon with that kind of news."

The Celtic Business Development Corporation was one of 40 job-finding organizations, which was told by the Newfoundland and Labrador government on Friday that it would lose its funding and would have to close.

In a press release sent out on Friday, the province said the $14 million used to fund those organizations would be redirected, and the department of Advanced Education and Skills will now take on the work of those groups.

Group helps rural job seekers

The Celtic Business Development Corporation has five employment service offices, located in the rural communities of St. Mary's, Trepassey, Ferryland, Manuels, and Goulds. Ryan said the group works with about 1,000 clients annually on skills such as resume writing and preparing for job interviews. About half of her clients find jobs.

Nicole Seaward is one of 16 staffers at the organization who will be laid off, and she says she's worried about her clients.

"I would like to hope that something could change and turn around that this service wouldn't be take from a lot of Newfoundlanders and people that need it," said Seaward.

Government will take over services

A spokesperson for government has said that people who would access groups such as the Celtic Business Development Corporation will go directly to Advanced Education and Skills for employment assistance programs and services.

"The rural areas of St. Mary's, Trepassey, Ferryland, we don't have any employment services there. The government doesn't have any offices there," Ryan pointed out. "So people would have to drive to St. John's to avail of those services."

Ryan said many of her clients, because they are unemployed, do not have access to vehicles or gas money to travel to St. John's. And with the province dealing with a labour shortage, Ryan said programs which help rural people find jobs are desperately needed.

"The sad thing about that is, when people don't have support in looking for work, they drop out of the labour market," said Ryan. "That's something we can ill afford right now."

Ryan said her employment service offices will shut down in June. Its headquarters will remain open in Ferryland.

On Newfoundland's west coast, the Community Education Network, which helps people in rural communities from Port aux Basques to St. Anthony find work, has also been hit hard. Seven of that group's offices will close, and 20 workers will be laid off.

Sharon Park, that group's executive director, said 1200 people found work last year with the assistance of her organization. Park added that people in Roddickton and Flowers Cove will suffer the brunt of the cuts, as there are no government employment offices in those communities.

In the meantime, CBC News has learned that 17 people in the Department of Advanced Education and Skills are also losing their positions. A spokesman for the department says their contracts will not be renewed past March 31.