Going back to school is now more affordable for unemployed Canadians thanks to Skills Boost

News release

June 13, 2018                 Gatineau, Quebec               Employment and Social Development Canada

Innovation is changing how we live and work, bringing with it new challenges and new opportunities for working Canadians. When more Canadians can afford to go back to school to upgrade their skills or even pursue a new career path, our middle class becomes stronger and more resilient. That is why today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, launched new Employment Insurance (EI) flexibilities as a part of Skills Boost, a plan to give adult learners the support they need to find and keep good jobs.

Now, people who are eligible for EI after several years in the workforce can apply to keep their EI benefits when they take a full-time course or training program at an approved institution starting August 5 of this year. This will help people who find themselves out of work adapt to the changing job market and economy. Skills Boost gets them the support they need to go back to school and upgrade their skills, so the next job is a better one.

As part of the $275.8 million three-year Skills Boost pilot, students eligible for the Canada Student Grant for Full‑Time Students who have been out of high school for at least 10 years will receive an additional $1,600 per school year ($200 per month) in top-up funding. An estimated 43,000 low- and middle-income Canadians will benefit from the top-up funding in the upcoming 2018–19 academic year. And, for the first time, working and unemployed Canadians whose employment situation has significantly changed from the previous year can see their current income used to assess Canada Student Grant eligibility. This means a person who experiences a drop in income will not be unfairly automatically disqualified for assistance based on their previous year's earnings.

Skills Boost also means expanded access to Canada Student Grants for part-time students and students with dependent children, to further break down financial barriers to post-secondary education. These measures are expected to benefit Canadian women in particular, who often strive to improve their career prospects while balancing family responsibilities. Women represent nearly two-thirds of the Canada Student Loans Program’s part-time recipients, while approximately four out of five students receiving the Canada Student Grant for students with dependent children are women.


“As a an adult learner myself, I know that there can be real financial barriers when returning to or starting school later in life, from tuition to books to the costs of raising your family at the same time. Today, our government is taking another step to make education more affordable and ensure Canadians have the support they need, no matter their circumstance.”
– The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

“Every Canadian deserves a real chance at success. That’s why I am so pleased to announce this new measure for long-tenured workers. It gives them the opportunity to go back to school to upgrade their skills or pursue a new career path, which is even more important in today’s constantly changing and innovation-driven economy. More than ever, we need to continue equipping Canadians with the skills they need to be competitive in the workforce.”
– The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Quick facts

  • To be eligible for the new measure offered by Service Canada, claimants must have received less than 36 weeks of EI regular and/or fishing benefits in the last 5 years and must have paid at least 30 percent of the maximum EI annual premium in 7 of the last 10 years. They also must meet all existing qualifying and entitlement conditions for regular or EI fishing benefits.

  • Budget 2017 provides $132.4 million over four years, beginning in 2018–19, and $37.9 million per year thereafter, to allow unemployed Canadians who have spent several years in the workforce to pursue self‑funded training while receiving EI benefits.

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Véronique Simard
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

Michael Brewster
Issue Manager
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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