The term “employment supports” refers to the range of programs and services available to individuals to help them participate and remain in the paid labour force, and to employers to help them recruit and retain the skilled labour they need. Saskatchewan, like all other Canadian jurisdictions, is faced with an aging workforce, a negative birth rate, and a need to ensure that all its citizens of labour force age (15 to 64 years) can and do participate as fully as possible in the labour market. To help ensure that this happens, industry, government, public post-secondary institutions, non-government agencies, and individuals must work collaboratively toward the common goal of helping the individual maximize self-sufficiency through employment. Employment supports, funded primarily through the provincial and federal governments, are one way this is accomplished.
In Saskatchewan, individual employment supports are targeted to those who have difficulty finding and keeping employment. This group includes low-income individuals, many of whom are single parents, as well as those with a disability, older workers, youth, Aboriginal people, or recent immigrants. Supports are also targeted to Saskatchewan people who are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). Employment supports have been developed to help employers locate, hire, and retain the labour they need to successfully operate in Saskatchewan’s changing labour market and economy. They can be used to help employers manage the costs of providing wages and/or training on-the-job to newly hired employees.
The key to designing effective employment supports lies in developing the right kind of support to meet the needs of individuals at the time and in the quantity needed. Often, the most important employment support is information. In Saskatchewan, this information is readily available on-line, through the SaskNetWork internet site. Developed by the province, with significant contribution from the federal government under the terms of the Canada-Saskatchewan Labour Market Development Agreement, this service offers information to job seekers, employers, adult learners, apprentices, students, parents, and instructors. The site gives up-to-date information related to career planning, job search, labour market information, resumé writing, and available jobs. It is organized around the categories of job seekers, employers, youth, entrepreneurs, and learners. Exploring the site enables individuals to explore options for employment and to review the training and experience required. Because it is internet-based, the SaskNetWork site is available to job or employee searchers in any geographic location; it is linked to national and international sites as well.
Other employment supports are provided through programs that offer a temporary, targeted wage subsidy to an employer to offset the costs of hiring an individual who has limited labour market experience, or who does not yet have the full skill set required to do the job. The wage subsidy is negotiated with the employer, who enters into a contract with the government agent that provides it, agreeing to terms and conditions aimed at ensuring that the individual and employer both benefit from the arrangement. Wage subsidy programs have been used for a number of years in Canada and other industrialized countries. Targeted wage subsidies are most appropriate to individuals who have had some labour market experience (for example, someone receiving Employment Insurance) or who are employment-ready. Individuals who lack labour market experience (for example, young single parents) or are without essential workplace skills may require special employment supports, such as a job coach. A job coach is assigned to an individual for a defined period of time to help that person adjust to working set hours and performing the tasks required. The coach also identifies areas where the individual may need additional help or specific training to effectively meet all job requirements, or additional supports such as child care. The coach may work to identify a job mentor who will help the individual sustain her or his employment. Sometimes, in conjunction with a job coach, job carving is done: the employer works with the support agency to identify areas of a job that the individual is expected to do, with remaining areas assigned to others in the work unit.
The Saskatchewan government provides employer supports primarily through the Department of Community Resources and Employment. Local service centres around the province provide employers and job seekers with career and workforce planning information, with labour market information, and with employment-related and community-based employment support services. Employers can post jobs electronically and get help with posting, screening, and interviewing processes as well. Employment supports are an important part of Saskatchewan social programs that are oriented towards employment, self-reliance, and reduced reliance on social assistance and Employment Insurance.