WHEREAS the Government of Alberta as part of Budget 2013 recently discontinued funding the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP); and
WHEREAS the STEP grants were vital for rural community organizations and not for profits in providing a summer workforce and taking pressure off of local volunteers; and
WHEREAS the STEP grants represent a small expense when compared to the impact it has on the not for profit and volunteer sector;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to reintroduce the STEP grants or a similar wage support program for the non-profit and volunteer sector in Alberta.
Coming into existence in 1972 the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) has been providing wage support assistance to organizations looking to hire students over the summer months. Although never representing more than a small fraction of the budget of the Human Services Department, with 2012’s cost coming in at 0.6% of Department total, this program nevertheless has played an instrumental role in funding the activities of community groups and organizations that are the social pillars of rural Alberta. As they rely mostly on volunteers, the organizations that this program funds are not in the position to raise the required money to meet staffing needs like the for-profit industry is. So although the program is just a small line item to the Provincial Government, the impact of its loss will be felt disproportionately on those people who already donate their time to make our rural communities better places to live and raise a family.
As the Minister has said himself in his March 8th update on the STEP program, Alberta has one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in Canada at 7.8%. This is all the more reason to help the volunteer and not for profit sector compete with a very aggressive private sector for student workers. As many in the not for profit sector have already voiced their concerns to this government about the challenges with attracting and retaining an adequate workforce the Government of Alberta understands the scope of the challenges they face. As part of the March 8th update on the STEP program, the Minister indicated the government’s willingness to work with the Voluntary and Not for Profit Sector to increase wage supports for this sector. As budget season comes around again it is important for the Government of Alberta to follow through on these words and provide the support that this sector desperately needs.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Human Services: With Budget 2013, Human Services placed its funding priorities on helping vulnerable Albertans, including children at risk, adults with disabilities and the homeless. Based on this and the low youth unemployment rate of 7.8 per cent, the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) was suspended.
Human Services recognizes that the suspension of STEP presented challenges to our community partners, in particular, the capacity of the non-profit and volunteer sector to attract young people to their sector. The ministry heard from many groups and has engaged in further conversations with organizations affected by the changes to STEP. These discussions have explored directions the Government of Alberta (GOA) can take in partnership with community stakeholders to address the needs of youth, as well as the non-profit and volunteer sector.
The impacts from the changes to STEP demonstrated that non-profit and volunteer sector workforce and youth employment issues persist and require new collaborative approaches. The creation of the Ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour does underscore the importance of providing training and employment opportunities for all Albertans, including students.
In the 2015-16 provincial budget, the Government of Alberta has dedicated $10 million per year for the next two years to return the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The Government of Alberta followed through on this commitment by dedicating $10 million to STEP in the 2016-17 provincial budget. This resolution is assigned the status of Accepted.