Ontario investing $5.5-million into job training program aimed at helping low-income women

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

The Government of Ontario is investing millions of dollars into programming designed to help improve the lives and economic situations of low-income women living in the province.

The provincial government put out a call on Monday, December 4, 2023, for applications for the Women’s Economic Security Program (WESP), a program that aims to expand and increase training opportunities for low-income women in order to equip them with skills, knowledge and experience to find a job or start their own business and therefore increase their financial security. The province announced an investment of $5.5-million into the program, which is an additional $496,000 this year, which will help even more women access training that can help improve their lives.

“The Women’s Economic Security Program is empowering women with the skills they need to join the workforce and help build Ontario together,” said Charmaine Williams, Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity.

“We know that supporting more women in the workforce benefits Ontario’s economy, especially in in-demand sectors such as the skilled trades. These careers are exciting, provide good pay and benefits, and will empower women and girls across the province to succeed.”

According to the province’s press release announcing the investment, the Women’s Economic Security Program offers training in for different streams: skilled trade, entrepreneurship, information technology and general employment. The program is also structured in such a way as to remove additional barriers facing low income women and families, including providing meals throughout the training day, transportation to and from training, and support in finding child care for the duration of the training. Women in the program, including those who have experienced or are at risk of intimate partner violence, will also have access to other forms of support such as referrals to mental health and well-being supports, counselling, housing and legal support.

“Ontario is taking action to end gender-based violence by supporting survivors and their families on their journey to recovery,” said Michael Parsa, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.

“One of our focus areas is helping women build economic stability and achieve financial independence. Through our collaborative efforts, we are building a province that promotes safety and fosters opportunities for women and girls.”

In addition to providing support and improving the financial standings of low-income women in the province, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development David Piccini said the program will also help address the labour shortage being experienced throughout the province.

“Ontario is facing the largest labour shortage in a generation, and with thousands of jobs going unfilled in the skilled trades, information technology, and other critical industries, we need all hands on deck,” Piccini said.

“That’s why Minister Williams and our government will continue investing in programs that continue breaking down barriers for women and give them the tools they need to earn bigger paycheques for themselves and their families.”

Organizations who are funded under the Women’s Economic Security Program can deliver employment, pre-employment, pre-apprenticeship and entrepreneurship training for low-income women. Those interested in the program can visit Ontario.ca/women to learn more and to apply to the WESP, and organizations interested in providing training can apply for program funding at the same location.

“When women have equal opportunities in the workforce, economies thrive, but they cannot get there if they are not safe,” said Marci Ien, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth.

“With investments from the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, I’m proud that our government is working with the Government of Ontario improve women’s economic security. This is about empowering more women to reach their full potential in all spheres of society, while also building the strong and inclusive workforce Canada needs to grow and thrive.”