By: Mike Anderson

The York Region District School Board (YRDSB) announced last month that it would permanently close its Yorkworks Employment Services sites in Sutton and Stouffville due to reduced funding from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MOL).

However, a Ministry source now says the province did not withdraw funding, and the Ministry was “surprised” by the YRDSB’s decision to close the sites.

“On January 20, 2021, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development received a letter from the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) advising that they had made a decision to close their two Yorkworks Employment Services sites located in Stouffville and Sutton at the end of their current agreement which ends March 31, 2021,” reads an email from MPP Caroline Mulroney’s constituency office, outlining the Ministry’s response to the closures.

“The decision to end the agreement with the Ministry was made by York Region District School Board. The Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development did not withdraw funding.”

However, Licinio Miguelo, the YRDSB’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications, reiterated to The Post that the Ministry’s funding reductions were responsible for the Board’s decision to close the sites.

“Overall, the funding for both sites operated by the Board in 2018/2019 was $1,699,110, and in 2019/2020, this funding was reduced to $1,590,708,” Mr. Miguelo said in an email.

“As the costs to operate the sites have increased over the years, the effect of this reduction was exacerbated. As such, we cannot continue to operate services outside our core mandate of public education with Board funding.”

Yorkworks Employment Services, which many hoped would play a key role in helping residents who lost jobs during the pandemic regain employment, has provided free employment counselling services for the past 20 years.

As of posting, there is no indication that the funding shortfall of $108,402 will be made up by either the province or York Region.

In the meantime, the Ministry is urging residents seeking employment and training services to visit the provincial website, www.ontario.ca//page/employment-ontario#find-a-job.

Residents and employers can also find a local service provider by contacting Employment Ontario, 416-326-5656 (Toll-Free: 1-800-387-5656) or by sending an email: ContactEO@Ontario.ca.

The Ministry is also working on a contingency plan for those communities affected by the closures.

“The Ministry has the YRDSB wind-down documents and is in the process of discussing the wind-down and working towards developing an action plan for active clients and employers in the Stouffville and Sutton communities,” the email said.

“As the wind-down progresses, the Ministry will continue to work with other service providers in York Region to ensure service continuity for existing and new clients.”

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