Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Shea said her department can absorb the workload following a $14-million cut to various employment assistance programs on Friday.

Shea said the focus will still be on ensuring that the people who use the service can still find work.

"There's millions of dollars that flow through government, through various programs that they offer, and you know not all programs are being eliminated," Shea said.

"We want to make sure with the

[Employment Assistance Services] that we don't focus so much on having employment offices as much as we really, truly focus on putting people to work."

Sharon Park, executive director of the Community Education Network in Stephenville, said the announcement didn't shock her.

"I don’t know if I was surprised. I think disappointed would be maybe a more accurate way of explaining it," she said.

The network will lose 20 workers from St. Anthony to Port aux Basques because of the cut.

Last year, those workers were able to help 1,200 people find jobs.

"In the last quarter, so three months, 3,490 clients received service through our seven centres," Park said.

Workload manageable

Shea is confident her staff will be able to manage the workload because some people are already dealing with the department on issues related to Employment Insurance.

"We deal with these clients anyway, so it won’t actually increase the number. It will increase some of the services that we provide through our offices," she said.

However, Park said she is concerned that many people will find the system too confusing.

"A lot of individuals who may be considering upgrading their skills or seeking assistance may just choose to stay home," Park said.

Agencies like the John Howard Society in St. John's and the Celtic Business Development Corporation on the Southern Shore will also be losing staff.

Cuts devastating, says Labrador worker

The province is pulling funding for NunatuKavut in Labrador, which has employment offices in several small communities.

Lisa Dempster, who will soon be without a job due to provincial cuts, said the loss of funding will have drastic effects in the isolated communities in Labrador.

"It's devastating to those small communities," Dempster said. "There was no duplication of resources that existed, and in many cases it was the only service that was being provided in a region."

Jessica Powell used the office resources to help find work between high and post-secondary schools.

"I live in Pinsent's Arm, and the closest office to me was still in Charlottetown. I mean, even that was a challenge some days," Powell said.

Contradicting policies

Small business owner Keith Rumbolt said the federal and provincial governments are coming out with contradicting announcements.

"Here we have the federal government that's out there under the new [Employment Insurance] program now, telling everybody to go out and look for work, and here we are, cutting the offices that [are] finding work," Rumbolt said.

Leaders of small communities in Labrador are concerned that the cuts will impact members of the population that need help the most.

Charlottetown Mayor Charmaine Powell said the closures will have a significant impact on a wide variety of people in her community.

"There's going to be youth affected ... middle aged, displaced fisherpeople are going to be affected, seniors are going to be affected, because [these agencies]

provided services for all these different avenues of people," Powell said.