Ontario is going to retrain laid off and unemployed hospitality workers

May 22 2020, 10:43 am

As the Ontario economy gradually reopens, the provincial government is helping people affected by COVID-19 get back to work with retraining programs online, specifically for hospitality and trade workers.

On Friday, Premier Doug Ford said that the province is investing in Ontario’s first Virtual Action Centre, an online counselling and training portal, to support laid off and unemployed hospitality workers, and is helping apprentices by providing grants to purchase tools, protective equipment, and clothing for their trade, along with forgiving previous similar loans.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been devastating for many business owners, workers, and families, and that’s why we are doing everything we can to help people through this difficult period,” said Ford.

“Hospitality workers and our skilled tradespeople have been among those hardest hit by this pandemic. These new programs will ensure they’re ready to get back on the job and play an important role in our economic recovery.”

The government is providing an Ontario Tools Grant of $2.5 million in 2020-21 and $7.5 million in 2021-22 and after.

This will help new eligible apprentices purchase the equipment they need to start careers. The funding amounts will be distributed to $1,000 for those in motive power sector trades, $600 for those in construction and industrial sector trades and $400 for those in service sector trades.

But, to be eligible for the new grant, apprentices must have completed level one training on or after April 1, 2020, an active registered training agreement, and been registered as an apprentice for at least 12 months.

Ford also said the Ontario government is also investing nearly $2 million to open a Virtual Action Centre in partnership with Unite Here Local 75. This virtual job training resource will provide up to 7,000 unemployed workers in the hospitality sector with access to a wide range of services and supports online and over the phone, including:

  • Stress management and mental health resources through video conferencing;
  • Immediate health and safety online training for workers who return to work at designated quarantined sites;
  • Technical skills online training;
  • Online training to upgrade English language and digital skills;
  • Peer group facilitation and employment preparation through videoconferencing.

Unite Here, is a union that represents workers in hotels, restaurants, racetracks and casinos, laundry, and food service companies, airport concessions and apparel, textile and general manufacturing and distribution centers. It will be operating the Virtual Action Centre.

The government is also forgiving more than $10 million in outstanding loans owed by apprentices for tool purchases made at the beginning of their careers.

The Loans for Tools Program allowed thousands of new apprentices to buy tools, equipment, clothing, manuals and code books required for their trade.

According to the province, about 19,000 apprentices who participated in the program owed, on average, $495 — this is no longer the case, Ford confirmed.