What sets Quebec's training businesses apart is their combination of labour market integration with genuine, nonprofit enterprise. In the course of being trained to turn out quality goods and services (in light manufacturing, food preparation and catering, second-hand clothing, cyber cafés, among many other kinds of workplace), people facing significant barriers to employment also learn the social and professional skills that are fundamental to their success in any line of work or study.
Entrenched in the dynamics of local development, training businesses rely heavily on a diverse network of partners and associates, both private and public. The role of Emploi-Québec, Québec's Department of Labour, is crucial. Each training business negotiates a contract with the ministry to split the costs of operation. Emploi-Québec covers payroll for trainees and management, and the costs of labour market integration. The business covers the costs of producing goods and services for sale to the general public. (It is the business' responsibility to manage these self-generated revenues wisely.)
Research now confirms the return on investment achieved by training businesses. Apart from the jobs they directly create, the greater employability of their graduates mean that government recovers its entire investment in less than three years. These businesses create wealth for individuals, for communities, their partners and suppliers, and even for the State. The rest of Canada should take notice.
This article is published in partnership with the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet), with the BC-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance (BALTA), and with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).