Career Focus Program Funding for skills upgrading

Do you want to expand your workforce but recognize that you will incur substantial skills training costs? This spring, the Government of Canada introduced the Career Focus Program to provide funding for employers to design and deliver a range of activities that enable youth to develop career required skills.  Career Focus aims to:

  • increase the supply of highly qualified workers;
  • facilitate the transition of highly-skilled young people to a rapidly changing labour market;
  • promote the benefits of advanced studies; and,
  • demonstrate federal leadership by investing in the skills required to meet the needs of the knowledge economy.

Eligibility Criteria

To participate in Career Focus, employees must be:

  • between the ages of 15 and 30 (inclusive) at the time of intake/selection;
  • Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or persons who have been granted refugee status in Canada;
  • legally entitled to work according to the relevant provincial/territorial legislation and regulations;
  • not receiving Employment Insurance benefits.

The program requires the involvement of eight youth participants.  In rural and remote regions, exceptions to the minimum participant requirement may be made. As with all government-funded projects, you will need to work with Service Canada to confirm the eligibility of each employee.

Eligible Career Focus activities include career-related work experiences for gaining employment experience and skills related to their field of studies or career goals. In other words, this activity facilitates their transition into the labour market, or supports the field of studies of those participants still in school. Through the work experience, participants will be able to supplement their theoretical knowledge with practical skills. Work experiences must be supported by workplace coaching and/or mentoring to maximize the benefit to be gained by the participant. It is anticipated that the duration of this work experience will normally be at least six months and not more than twelve months.

Funding may be provided for advanced employability skills workshops such as management skills, entrepreneurial skills, leadership skills, communication, teamwork and essential skills workshops.

Financial Assistance Value

Financial assistance may be provided to cover a maximum of 80% of the costs associated with operating and delivering approved activities; contribution recipients are required to leverage (to include contributions {cash or in-kind} a minimum of 20% of total project costs.

Contributions may be made to eligible contribution recipients, including those who further distribute funds to ultimate recipients, for the following costs of eligible activities:

  • overhead costs, including costs related to administrative functions that are drawn upon to support agreement activities (such as shared postage, telephones, IT maintenance and head office);
  • the costs of materials and supplies;
  • wages and mandatory employment-related costs;
  • honoraria and hospitality costs;
  • printing and communication costs;
  • travel costs;
  • professional fees (such as consultants, IT, technical expertise, facilitation, legal, research, audit, assessment and evaluation);
  • capital costs; and,
  • costs necessary to support the purpose of the funding.

Financial assistance may be provided to cover all or a portion of the costs associated with participating in the activities.

Costs may include:

  • income support to participants (wages);
  • additional support to cover all or part of the incremental costs for individuals to participate, such as dependent care, travel or transportation; and,
  • other support to cover the cost of items associated with the youth’s participation, including disability supports.

The maximum cost per participant (the amount of departmental funding requested divided by the number of expected participants) is $20,000 per project regardless of the length of the intervention. This includes overhead and participant costs. Amounts needed to accommodate participants with disabilities would be in addition to the $20,000 maximum.

For instance, if the total calculated budget for a project is $100,000, then the applicant (including other partners) is required to provide a minimum of $20,000 and $80,000 may be requested. These are very generous financial assistance dollars. If you are looking to grow your business and want to upgrade or develop the skills necessary to make that possible, this is a very cost-effective way to accomplish your goals. Acceptance into the program is based on evaluation by Service Canada, so, make sure that you are ready to present a well thought out, quality plan that will inspire acceptance.


Elliot Schiller is a Director at Toronto’s Teeger Schiller Inc., a firm specializing in government funding and systems selection/implementation. His clients receive over $5 M annually to support ongoing business innovation. E-mail, visit or phone 1-888-816-0222 Ext. 102