Backgrounder: Workforce Development Agreements & Labour Market Development Agreements


Changing demands of the workplace

Canada is home to a well-educated and highly skilled workforce, but rapid technological change and globalization are accelerating the need to learn and develop new skills. As the demands of the workplace change, so too must the skills that workers bring to their jobs. The Government of Canada is taking action to ensure that both employers and governments are more responsive to workers’ needs.

The new and amended agreements followed broad-based consultations with more than 700 stakeholders on how to expand and improve skills training and employment supports for Canadians.

Workforce Development Agreements

The new Workforce Development Agreements (WDAs) consolidate the Canada Job Fund Agreements, the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities (expired in March 2018) and the  Targeted Initiative for Older Workers (expired in March 2017). In addition to the $722 million provided annually to provinces and territories under the WDAs, Budget 2017 added $900 million over a period of six years from 2017–18 to 2022–23. The new funding will also support provincial and territorial employment programming for older workers, which was previously supported by the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers.

These agreements provide provinces and territories with the flexibility to respond to the diverse needs of their respective clients, both employers and individuals, which include members of under-represented groups.

Labour Market Development Agreements

Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDAs) are bilateral agreements with each province and territory to design and deliver employment programming similar to Employment Benefits and Support Measures outlined in Part II of the Employment Insurance Act. LMDAs help unemployed Canadians quickly find and return to work. They also ensure a skilled labour force that meets current and emerging needs of employers.

Budget 2017 measures to expand eligibility to help more Canadians access skills training and employment assistance under the amended LMDAs include:

  • investing an additional $1.8 billion in LMDAs over six years;
  • broadening eligibility for Employment Benefits (e.g. skills training, wage subsidies) to include unemployed individuals who have made minimum Employment Insurance premium contributions in at least 5 of the last 10 years;
  • expanding eligibility for Employment Assistance Services (e.g. employment counselling, job search assistance), previously only available to unemployed Canadians, to also include employed Canadians; and
  • increasing flexibility for provinces and territories to support employer-sponsored training under Labour Market Partnerships (e.g. to help employers who need to upskill or retrain their workers in order to adjust to technological or structural changes in the economy).

More recently, the Government of Canada announced the following new supports to better support workers in seasonal employment:

  • The Government of Canada invested $189 million to implement a new pilot project to provide up to five additional weeks of EI regular benefits to eligible seasonal claimants in 13 targeted EI regions. The additional five weeks of benefits will be available to those who start a benefit period between August 5, 2018 and May 30, 2020. Saskatchewan is not part of the pilot project.
  • The Government is also making available $41 million over two years to all provinces and territories through their Labour Market Development Agreements to provide skills training, wage subsidies and employment supports for workers in seasonal industries.

These supports are part of the Budget 2018 commitment to provide $230 million to assist workers in seasonal industries.

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