The financial axe has fallen on a government internship program originally designed to fill the gap left by departing baby boomers and stem the brain drain from this province.
“This, on top of what we’ve seen with de-funding of universities, 11,000 fewer jobs than last year — I think it’s more bad news for young people in the province,” said the NDP’s Carla Beck, critic for the Crown Investments Corp. (CIC).
“It’s very unfortunate,” she added.
Workers in the Gradworks Intern Development Program were notified Monday that it’s coming to an end, and the Gradworks’ website also announced the demise of the 11-year-old program. According to CIC, there are currently 81 people at various stages in their yearlong internships, which puts them in paid positions at nine Crown corporations.
CIC president and CEO Blair Swystun said the current interns will be allowed to finish their terms, and no new applications will be accepted.
With the provincial government now grappling with a $1-billion deficit, the Crowns have also been directed to do some belt-tightening. Gradworks was among the casualties.
“There’s been a major restraint effort throughout government, and that’s included ministries as well as Crown corporations to focus on finding ways to reduce costs,” said Swystun.
He said $50-million in “restraint measures” have been undertaken at the Crowns, including the Gradworks program, which costs about $2.5 million in salaries annually. Swystun said there will also be “a few hundred thousand dollars” in additional savings from administrative costs. Two administrative jobs will be phased out as the program draws to an end in about 11 months.
“It is a significant loss,” said Beck, adding the internships not only provided valuable job experience, but allowed for networking within Saskatchewan and helped retain those young workers here.
Gradworks began in 2005 and has run continuously since. Pairing an intern with a mentor, the program gave recent post-secondary graduates an opportunity to get experience and hone their skills in the Crowns. They were placed at CIC, SaskPower, SaskEnergy, SaskTel, SaskGaming, STC, SaskWater, SGI, and Innovation Place. Typically about 75 interns were accepted each year.