Another $90 million injection for a “second chance” employment and training program through the Ontario Skills Development Fund

When her work as an Amazon reseller dried up during the pandemic, Colleen Scanlan began to struggle. She started doing odd jobs outside of Kijiji, but those postings also stopped.

So Scanlan, a 46-year-old mother of three, started applying for jobs – only to face repeated rejections due to a decade-old minor criminal record.

« That was literally the only time I got in trouble, » she said of the theft conviction. “Can they just not see me as I am, instead of what is on paper?

Next, Scanlan found an ad for John Howard’s WorkPath Employment Services program in the Hamilton and Burlington area. The program, which received nearly $500,000 in funding from the Ontario Skills Development Fund depending on the province, has connected more than 40 people with criminal records or involvement in the justice system with jobs in the manufacturing sector.

It took a few months to get an interview, but Scanlan has now worked in a Hamilton factory for nearly a year and says she has proven herself more than capable, even in a male-dominated industry.

The job also means she no longer lives paycheck to paycheck or has to work multiple minimum wage jobs to make ends meet, she said.

Now, an additional $90 million from the province is being invested in the Skills Development Fund to support more employment and training programs. This third round of funding will prioritize people with a history of involvement with the criminal justice system, at-risk youth, people with disabilities, Indigenous people and newcomers from Ukraine.

Applications for the fund open on Thursday, September 29, 2022.

Giving people a « second chance » is key to breaking well-documented cycles of poverty and incarceration, said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. Ontario, during an interview.

“A small mistake can hold someone back for a lifetime,” he said.

The John Howard Society of Ontario has repeatedly found that finding employment can be extremely difficult for people who have had a history with the justice system, even though it is illegal under the Human Rights Code to Ontario to discriminate against people with criminal records.

« It’s not just good for labor shortages, it’s good for taxpayers, » McNaughton said, noting that some of the funded programs aim to help people on welfare find meaningful careers with benefits and pension plans.

He hopes to see programs that will lead to employment in advanced manufacturing, skilled trades, health care and the technology sector.

The previous two funding rounds delivered 388 training projects working with 393,000 people, according to a press release.

Scanlan is grateful that her success, along with that of several others who have gone through the John Howard Society program, is opening the door to more funding that can help others facing the same “dark cloud” of stigma.

« My motto is, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, » she said. « There are programs, resources and people to help you, it may take some time. »


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