Second chance for jobs – comment/editorial – Second chance for jobs
June 09, 2008

Hopes that the General Motors truck plant in Oshawa could be saved appeared to be dashed Friday after the company rebuffed union overtures at a meeting in Detroit. “We’re walking away extremely disappointed,” Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove said.

The decision to shutter the plant next year, driven by skyrocketing gas prices and growing consumer demand for smaller vehicles, will throw 2,600 people out of work next year and force trickle-down layoffs across the auto-parts sector. But the GM closing also is the latest sign of massive, and likely irreversible, structural changes in the economy that are battering Ontario’s manufacturing heartland.

In the face of this daunting challenge, Premier Dalton McGuinty is taking a small but promising step to help the province’s economy adjust. Last week, he put some flesh on a three-year, $355 million program, first announced in the March budget, to help unemployed workers retrain for new careers.

The “Second Career” program will give recently laid-off workers as much as $28,000 toward tuition and living expenses for up to two years while they attend community or private career colleges to retool their skills for fields where jobs are more plentiful, such as health care. The plan is expected to help some 20,000 people find new work.

That may be just a drop in the bucket compared with recent job cuts in the manufacturing sector. But it still is a forward-looking response to the devastating loss of thousands of high-paying factory jobs.

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