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Small businesses urged to utilize STEP program

Posted on February 23, 2017 by Westwind Weekly
© Lethbridge Herald photo by Tijana Martin Shannon Phillips, MLA Lethbridge West speaks with Wallie Desruisseaux, the owner of Kapow Ltd. Comics, Cards and Games on Friday to promote the STEP program of wage subsidy. @TMartinHerald

J.W. Schnarr
Westwind Weekly News

Time is running out for small businesses to take advantage of a program designed to help offset the costs of providing summer employment to students.

Applications for Summer Temporary Employment Program must be submitted before Feb. 24.

Employers can receive a $7 per hour wage subsidy to provide students with work experience from May to August.

The program is part of the government’s “Future Ready” initiative to co-ordinate education and training from kindergarten to employment.

Last year, STEP was able to provide about 2,700 students with work experience from more than 1,200 employers across Alberta.

The government budgeted $10 million per year for STEP, beginning in 2016-17.

On Friday, Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips said it is hoped more small businesses will hear about the program and how it can benefit them.

“We cut small business taxes in last year’s budget, and going forward, we want to ensure that businesses know about (STEP),” she said.

“When we brought that program back, we made sure that small business was able to apply for it.”

The program was available under the previous government for nonprofit organizations and for different levels of government. It provided assistance to those groups to hire on local students by covering a portion of their wages and provide a short-term employment opportunity.

The program was discontinued as a cost-saving measure in 2013 by the previous government, but reinstated by the Notley government with expanded opportunities for small businesses.

“We made the choice to end that support for MLAs and for politicians, and instead we are giving it to small business.”

Eligible employers for STEP include small businesses, excluding franchises and corporate chains; non-profit organizations; school boards; municipalities, First Nations and Metis settlements; and publicly-funded post-secondary institutions in Alberta.

“Being able to hire people who are either moving along in their studies or moving to college or university, being able to give them those practical skills is really something small business is looking for,” said Phillips.

Wallie Desruisseaux, owner of Kapow Ltd., said the $7 per hour subsidy on wages available to small business through STEP is helpful because those businesses sometimes cannot afford to hire on the extra help they need through the summer months.

“This basically pays for half their wage, which is really big. It allows me to bring in a summer student who I want on a temporary project or event,” he said.

“If I want a summer student for an activity, this allows me to budget that (activity) much better. Sometimes, it’s hard to justify paying for an extra person for two to four months.”

Application forms are available online at AlbertaCanada.com/STEP.

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