The Jasper Adult Learning Council (JALC) will pay up to 20 unemployed local seniors $1,000 each to re-train for jobs in the tourism industry under a new, federally funded program set to begin next month.
The “targeted initiative for older workers” will also help provide seniors with job placements in the tourism sector this summer, said JALC executive director Ginette Marcoux-Frigon.
“The feds have long recognized that ‘Freedom 55’ no longer exists and it’s more like ‘Freedom 66,’” Marcoux-Frigon explained. “The average worker now stays in the workforce until 66 years old, and Jasper is no exception. The cost of living is high here and what we’re finding is older workers that may have had previous careers, their skills don’t necessarily transfer to the tourism industry.”
That fact, combined with the significant local need for tourism-sector workers during the busy summer season, helped Jasper qualify for the funding, which comes from Ottawa but is administered by the provincial government. Alberta, as a whole, received $10 million from the federal government as part of the initiative, under an agreement signed last year.
The program at JALC is open to unemployed Jasper residents and aimed primarily at people between the ages of 55 to 64. Marcoux-Frigon said about 15 per cent of the town’s population falls into that demographic. People aged 50-54 and those over the age of 65 will also be considered, she added.
The two-month program will take place mostly during the months of March and April, Marcoux-Frigon said, and participants who successfully complete it will receive a Tourism Essentials Certificate. They will also each receive a $1,000 training allowance and support with job placement in local fields ranging from outdoor guiding to hospitality management to visitor service.
“It’s very unique. It’s a very new program, and very tourism-specific,” Marcoux-Frigon said.
And while the JALC can’t guarantee local job placements, Marcoux-Frigon said she anticipates that re-trained older workers will be quickly snapped up by eager employers.
“The interesting thing is, because of the boom right now in Alberta, it’s pulling a lot of tourism-sector workers out of the sector. They’re going to oil and gas. So tourism is experiencing staff shortages right across the province,” she said.
Jasper employes, she added, will have a strong need for reliable workers as the busy tourist season approaches.
“Last year we saw lots of job postings that people just didn’t fill for the summer,” she said. “Retail was especially hard hit last summer, because they needed people who were more stable.”
Seniors interested in the program can contact the JALC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-852-4418.