A game of foosball against a seasoned competitor and youth supervisor at the Rayside Balfour Youth Centre in Chelmsford served up a small break in the itinerary for Patty Hajdu,the federal minister of employment, workforce development and labour, who paid a visit to the Nickel City on Aug. 23.
Not even the help of Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré could overcome the expertise of Andrew Gorman, one of several youth supervisors at the centre, located next to Coté Park.
Gorman is a participant in the Canada Summer Jobs program.
As the minister of labour, Hajdu said she likes to visit participants at their places of employment to get a better sense of how it's working, what the youth are thinking and what draws them to apply for the program.
"This program is quite important for youth, as it gives them an opportunity to earn money, get the work experience under their belt, and it's important for the employers, as they can offer additional programming and support to provide more services to the community,” said Hajdu.
The federal government doubled the Canada Summer Job program. Previously, there were about 35,000 jobs available, said Hajdu, “but we've had 70,000 jobs every year for the last three years, and we think that will be even higher this year, near 80,000 jobs approved.”
In Nickel Belt, since 2015, there have been more than 1,100 positions for summer students, said Serré, with more than $2 million invested in the program. This year alone, there were positions for about 350 summer students.
There's also been a change in eligibility for the program this year. Whereas it was only available for youth enrolled in school, it is now available to any youth between the ages of 15 to 30, Hajdu said.
The minister was also in the city to meet with a group of labour leaders who are trying to increase awareness of skilled trades among young people, as well as working to restore credibility of the union movement that had taken a hit under the Harper government.
“Our government has been very friendly toward organized labour because we believe that in order to have a healthy middle class, you have to have a strong labour movement,” Hajdu said.
“We talked about successes and challenges, the needs in terms of shortages in certain skilled trades, and how we can better harmonize the apprenticeship strategy across Canada, which is a work in progress, and has been for some time.”
Hajdu left Chelmsford en route to Spanish, then to Timmins on Saturday for an infrastructure announcement.
This story originally appeared on Sudbury.com.