The B.C. government's new training and employment program for single parents on income assistance has grown to 2,500 applicants in its first five months.
Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell said she is encouraged by the continued growth of applicants, with 60 to 100 people per week applying at WorkBC employment centres. The majority are women, and most are required to seek employment as a condition of assistance once their children are three years or older.
"One of the good things that I see is that about two thirds of those clients who have come forward have employment obligations, but one third are not actually obligated to look for work, and they are looking for work," Stilwell said.
The program covers tuition, daycare and transportation costs for up to a year of on-the-job training or education towards in-demand jobs for single parents on social assistance or disability payments. The benefits can continue for up to the first year of employment, including extension of government-paid dental and other health benefits.
It replaces the previous system, often referred to as the welfare trap, where single parents would lose their assistance payments and benefits if they went back to school to train for a job.
According to the ministry's latest monthly report, 179 single parents have started jobs since the program began Sept. 1. More than 200 have started training programs.
The largest work category for training is nurse aides and orderlies in health care facilities, where employment counsellors have identified jobs are available.
Other skills in demand are office administration, industrial trades and truck and heavy equipment operation.