One program the NDP re-invigorated over their term was the Summer Temporary Employment Program or better known as STEP.

The program is designed to provide employment opportunities between the months of May and August for students either attending high school or post-secondary institutions while saving businesses/organizations some money by subsidizing the student's wage.

Applications are now being accepted, says Banff-Cochrane MLA Cameron Westhead. "It's a very popular option for employers because there is a wage subsidy component so it makes it easier and more attractive to hire younger people who may not have the same kind of experience as to people they might normally attract for a higher wage."

Providing a $7 per hour wage subsidy to employers makes the program a win-win partnership. "We know that Alberta students deserve good jobs and the best possible training and Alberta businesses also deserve labor resources that they need to help them thrive. So it's a great way to give job experience to young people and also a way for employers to recruit young people who can stay within their business and possibly be attracted to come back in the future."

Since the NDP government reenergized the program a couple years ago, it only continues to gain traction. "One of our election promises back in the 2015 campaign was to bring STEP back, so in 2016 the program was re-invigorated after the previous government planned to cancel the program entirely. Since 2016 the program has provided about 9000 jobs for students across the province."

In 2017, thirteen Cochrane employers such as Town of Cochrane, Great Things in Store, Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre, The Crossing at Ghost River, and Bow Rivers Edge Campground received funding for students making up a total of $92,757. 

Although unlikely, Westhead did share funding could be affected depending on this year's election results. "I suppose it is possible because much of the funds would come out of the 2019/2020 budget year and if another party were to form the government and make a different choice regarding the STEP program the program could be in jeopardy based on ideological leanings of other parties who don't see this as a training opportunity but rather as a handout, which is not how we view it at all."

Last year, alone, 1400 employers across Alberta were able to hire 3050 students and the program is available to small businesses, non-profit organizations, public libraries, school boards, publicly funded post-secondary institutions, municipalities, First Nations and Metis settlements.

This year applications are only being accepted online and the cut-off to apply is February 8th. If you would like to submit an application, you can do so HERE and you are encouraged to submit sooner than later.

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