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Ottawa picks private firm over charity to help vets find work

February 14, 2018 3:04 AM
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Charity winds down job hunting services for veterans after Ottawa gives the job to a private company — at a cost of $10 million.

OTTAWA—Veterans Affairs will spend upwards of $10 million to have a private company help veterans find work in the private sector, taking over a role that had been done by a charity.

The federal department awarded a three-year contract to Oshawa-based Agilec to provide career transition services starting April 1, prompting the charity Canada Company to wind down its own job placement program.

“A charity can’t compete against a publicly funded private company. We really don’t have an option,” said Blake Goldring, a Toronto businessman who is the founder and chairperson of Canada Company.

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In recent years, the charity has run an employment transition program to assist personnel who are leaving the military find work in the private sector. It has been a two-pronged effort. It helps personnel with job-hunting skills, such as preparing resumes. And it educates employers on the talents that military personnel can bring to a civilian workplace.

The program has placed more than 3,000 personnel in jobs since its creation and has formed partnerships with more than 200 employers. The charity got $1.1 million in 2016 to develop a database to assist with job searches but the cost of its transition program has been covered by corporate donations and other sponsors.

Canada Company had submitted a joint bid with the March of Dimes and another organization for the contract but lost out to Agilec. As a result, Canada Company will stop offering transition services on March 31.

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said the government was looking for “something more comprehensive.”

“It was an open and transparent process . . . Canada Company bid. Agilec won. As far as we know, this will mean a better service for veterans,” O’Regan said in an interview Tuesday.

He said the prime minister gave him clear “marching orders” when he took on the role. “Making that transition into civilian life is our top priority. And it has to be from the point of view from the veteran,” he said.

Mary Nicholson, director of rehab and income support services at Veterans Affairs, said the program to be delivered by Agilec is new, different than what was offered by Canada Company.

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