On April 19, 2021, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, released Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience. It contained promising news to help address tourism workforce recovery efforts. More information is needed to know how some of these initiatives will work, but based on the information contained in the budget document, several initiatives align with recommendations Tourism HR Canada tabled in the Workforce Shortfall: What it Takes to Restart Canada’s Tourism Workforce report (February 2021) and the report on outcomes from the annual Labour Market Forum (March 2021).
The new Canada Recovery Hiring Program is timely and essential for the sector. We emphasized the need to focus on redeployment and re-employment, along with measures that would help address seasonal workers. Details on this new hiring incentive program are still being developed, but it looks like it will address some of what we outlined. It will begin in June and end in November, covering up to 50% of the costs associated with staffing up—whether that means recalling previous workers, adding new staff, or increasing their hours.
Supporting Skills for Success is another new program which aligns with the skills and work transition programming we mention in our recovery strategy, targeting the same vulnerable populations.
Our recovery strategy highlights the need for community workforce planning. Here, too, the budget has funding for a new Community Workforce Development Program. The program will support communities to “develop local plans that identify high potential growth organizations and connect these employers with training providers to develop and deliver training and work placements to upskill and reskill jobseekers to fill jobs in demand”—words that are very similar to those used in our report. Although tourism is not mentioned in the detailed text (other sectors are), this needs to be looked at closely.
The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) has been extended, as we also recommended in our report.
The budget proposes the development of a new Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program. “Working primarily with sector associations and employers, funding would help design and deliver training that is relevant to the needs of businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses, and to their employees. This funding would also help businesses recruit and train a diverse and inclusive workforce.” (Page 112, Chapter 2) There is limited information or detail in Budget 2021 on this new program, although it appears to be like the former Sector Council Program (which was dismantled by the previous government). Tourism HR Canada was one of the originating Sector Councils, and deemed exemplary in its efforts.
Here is a list of further funding initiatives that are aligned with tourism workforce recovery (extracts directly from the budget report):
- Helping Youth and Students Build Job Skills and Connect with Employers: $721 million in the next two years to help connect them with employers and provide them with quality job opportunities.
- Student Work Placement Program: $239.8 million in the Student Work Placement Program in 2021-22 to support work-integrated learning opportunities for post-secondary students. This funding would increase the wage subsidy available for employers to 75%, up to $7,500 per student, while also increasing employers’ ability to access the program.
- Youth Employment and Skills Strategy: $109.3 million in 2022-23 for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy to better meet the needs of vulnerable youth facing multiple barriers to employment, while also supporting over 7,000 additional job placements for youth.
- Canada Summer Jobs: $371.8 million in new funding for Canada Summer Jobs in 2022-23 to support approximately 75,000 new job placements in the summer of 2022.
- Enhancing the Canada Workers Benefit: Expand the Canada Workers Benefit to support about 1 million additional Canadians in low-wage jobs, helping them return to work and increasing benefits for Canada’s most vulnerable.
- Canada Digital Adoption Plan: This new program is described as “comprehensive support to help small businesses adopt new technology”. The funding is to work with organizations to provide access to skills training, advisory services for businesses, and support costs to adopt technology. (Note: the impact of digitalization on the tourism workforce was featured in the Labour Market Forum in March. View the presentation here.)
Other measures will contribute significantly to helping build the tourism workforce and meeting the needs of vulnerable and precarious workers in the sector. The Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care System, the National Mental Health Standards, and supports for businesses to pay for mandatory quarantine for Temporary Foreign Workers will be a great help to the sector.
Workforce initiatives aside, the budget contains many other measures to help tourism sustain operations and recover from the pandemic. It presents one of the more promising budgets concerning workforce issues.
Although not all priority strategies recommended in Tourism HR Canada’s recovery plans are addressed, the measures can go a long way in helping sustain and restart Canada’s tourism workforce. Accessing and harnessing these initiatives will demand a focused and all-of-tourism approach to advocate on behalf of the sector, to ensure that appropriate resources are destined for tourism jobs.