NOTE: The following is an op-ed from Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Michel Samson on the Graduate to Opportunity program.
We all have a daughter or a brother or a friend who had to go "down the road" to find their first job -- to Toronto or Fort McMurray, to Korea or Dubai.
And maybe those smart, young people left because they wanted to see the world -- as smart, young people are wont to do. But maybe they left because they couldn't find a job here and that's not right.
We know that having a skilled, talented and available workforce is critical for Nova Scotia. It is the most important asset when it comes to attracting investment, positioning our companies for success and driving future growth in our economy.
And yet Nova Scotia, like so many other provinces, is challenged on this front.
Our workforce is shrinking. Our demographics are shifting. The economic landscape is changing and we are racing to keep up.
Things need to change.
Last week, government launched the Graduate to Opportunity program. This new initiative gives employers incentive to hire new graduates and get them the experience they need to launch successful careers in our province.
Small and medium-sized businesses, startups, social enterprises, not-for-profits, and registered charities who hire new graduates on a full-time basis can receive 25 per cent of the graduate's salary back after the first year, and 12.5 per cent back after the second year.
Government is investing $1.6 million this year -- enough to support the private sector in creating as many as 100 full-time jobs for new graduates. By year three, that increases to at least 400 jobs -- a $6.5-million commitment.
Graduate to Opportunity directly addresses several goals put forward by the oneNS commission and embraced by government, like improving interprovincial migration and retaining international students, supporting start ups and addressing youth unemployment.
It's just one of a number of ways this government is taking action to support graduate retention, talent attraction and economic growth.
But we all have a role to play. And government is no exception.
We are working with employers, industry and our colleagues across Canada to modernize the apprenticeship system, creating more opportunities for apprentices and giving better access to training. In fact, earlier this month, the premier joined with his provincial and territorial colleagues in signing an agreement that will see apprentices' hours worked, and technical training, recognized across Canada.
We also introduced a graduate scholarship program that allows our students to do valuable research and work that will spur new inventions and create more opportunities.
Government is "walking the talk" as an employer, too, by looking at how we can make more public sector job opportunities available to graduates or skilled youth with little experience. We have already begun to remove experience requirements for some positions, and this work continues.
Attracting and retaining talent is important and Graduate to Opportunity is a step in the right direction, but it's only as good as the employers who use it. For more information or to apply for the program, visit www.novascotia.ca/econ/gto
Media Contact: Sarah Levy MacLeod