CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Feds address SARS job loss crisis

Two new JobTrack Centres have been created to assist workers whose jobs have been negatively affected or lost due to SARS. With the Conference Board of Canada estimating that SARS will reduce Toronto's GDP by nearly $1 billion in 2003, its impact is expected to be felt through 2006. The majority of workers affected are from the hospitality, tourism and related support industries.

Funded by the federal government in response to the high number of jobs lost in the GTA due to SARS, this initiative has been launched at Working Skills Centre and Community MicroSkills Development Centre. These two community organizations specialize in employment support services. Workers seeking support have two locations to choose from: one downtown near the entertainment district and the other close to the airport area.

Workers who participate in the JobTrack program at MicroSkills or Working Skills Centre receive one-on-one counselling and assistance in developing return-to-work action plans as well as having access to job market information from industry experts, resources, information and links to job search opportunities. The program also offers support services in coping with stress related to job loss and job search.

"These support services are critical," explains Minerva Hui, Executive Director, Working Skills Centre. "Many of the workers in this sector are for a variety of reasons, particularly vulnerable. Our programs provide some of the necessary tools to re-establish themselves."

Over the next six months, each JobTrack Centre expects to register more than 1,000 clients for this new initiative. It is estimated that employment in Ontario fell by more than 27,000 due to SARS, with the highest percentage from the GTA.

"Losing a job can be one of the most devastating personal crises of a lifetime," says Kay Blair, executive director, MicroSkills. "Financial loss is always a serious issue; however, the damage to one's sense of worth can be even more difficult to face. Our JobTrack program will provide support in coping with the stress of job loss as well as the necessary tools for a successful job search."

The Canadian Tourism Commission says cancellations attributed to SARS have cost Ontario hoteliers $60 million in the month of April 2003 alone. The CTC estimates this bleak picture is the same for the tourism job sector, where job losses are estimated at 5,300 for 2003, with 7,350 jobs estimated lost between 2003 and 2006.

Both MicroSkills and Working Skills Centre have been successful in helping people enhance their skills and getting on their way to a new job and career path for more than 20 years. To date, the clients served are representative of 57 different language groups from 85 countries.

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