New hire incentives target women, minorities and people with disabilities

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil donned a white lab coat Tuesday morning for another campaign-style funding announcement in a year that's widely expected to include a provincial election.

Changes made to Graduate to Opportunity program, which helps cover salary costs of new hires

Premier Stephen McNeil with Jessie Gao and Haila Kottwitz at Mara Renewables on Tuesday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil donned a white lab coat Tuesday morning for another campaign-style funding announcement in a year that's widely expected to include a provincial election.

McNeil announced changes to enhance the Graduate to Opportunity (GTO) program to encourage more businesses to hire women, people with disabilities and graduates from diverse backgrounds.

"We want to make sure that every Nova Scotian sees themselves in our economy," said McNeil. "They see themselves as an opportunity to do their work right here at home, we want no one to feel that we've left them behind."

Partial salary costs covered

The announcement was made inside a laboratory at Mara Renewables in Dartmouth, a biofuel research company that currently has two female employees from the GTO program.

Launched in 2015, the program covers 25 per cent of salary for the first year for newly hired graduates. The announcement on Tuesday upped that amount to 35 per cent for racially visible, Indigenous or international graduates, or for those with disabilities or for female graduates in a non-traditional occupations.

"We get to know them and we give them an opportunity to grow in a work environment so we can see how good they are," said Roberto Armenta, chief scientist at Mara. 

"We often keep them because they do very well working with others, it allows us to take that step, which is very important for us."

The premier said the strategy is to train and keep youth at home and will support economic growth in the province.

'I hope that I can stay here'

Jessie Gao is originally from China but went to school at Queen's University in Ontario before graduating from Dalhousie. She's a fermentation specialist who recently started with Mara Renewables.

"The GTO program has helped me start my career," said Gao. "Halifax is a very nice place and I have chosen it as my future home and I hope that I can stay here and live the rest of my life."

The Graduate to Opportunity program was rolled out in 2015 with $1.6 million budgeted for the first year and $3.2 million for 2016.

More than $6 million was targeted for 2017 but that number could be lower, depending on how many companies make use of the hiring incentives.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story wrongfully attributed a quote belonging to Roberto Armenta. This version has been corrected.
    Mar 21, 2017 5:02 PM AT

About the Author

Paul Palmeter

Reporter

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.