by Andrew Sutherland

originally published in the September, 2010 Issue

Second Career applicants rejected since November of last year, might want to take a look in their mailbox for a letter from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, asking them to give the application process one more try.

“They’ve really opened up the guidelines,” says Cynthia Meshorer, a Second Career counselor at Times Change Women’s Employment Service.

“They’ve amended some of the wording, and the changes they made have a fairly far reaching impact.”

As of June 8, 2010, the Ministry made some subtle changes to the Career Eligibility and Suitability Assessment Template which will make it easier for applicants to qualify for the Second Career program. The template is one of the most important components in the Second Career application process. It breaks down elements such as amount of time spent on an active job search, duration of unemployment and educational attainment, and awards them a point value. In each of the seven categories, a person can earn 3 points for high level program suitability, 2 for medium, and 1 for low. For instance, in the category of active job search more than 26 weeks of active job search with documentation will earn 3 points, 13 to 26 weeks of active job search will earn 2 points, and less than 13 weeks of active job search will earn 1 point. An applicant must score 16 points out of a potential 21 to qualify for the Second Career program.

Effective June 8, there have been modifications to four of the template categories. Active job search, duration of unemployment, work history, and experience: occupational skills have all been adjusted, making it easier for people to score in the upper echelon.

Under the old guidelines, in the category of active job search, a person must have spent 52 weeks looking for work with no success to score full points. It’s now been slashed in half, and 26 weeks of job hunting will earn 3 points in that category. The same holds true for duration of unemployment, where the 52 week period previous required to score the full 3 points has been halved to 26.

Another change is under the category work history, where prior to June a person had to be employed for more than 7 years in an occupation that was in decline, such as forestry, to score points. “It was a very small list and almost nobody got points there,” says Meshorer.

Now a person need only have spent 7 years in the same occupation to score the full 3 points.

Applicant Matt Caldarola was originally disqualified from the Second Career program because, “the occupation I was coming from wasn’t considered in decline.”

When Caldarola reapplied just after the guidelines changed in June, he found out he scored high enough to qualify for the program.

“If you’ve been working in the same industry for seven years and you’re now looking to get out, you may have more barriers than a person who has more varied experience,” says Meshorer.

The final change comes in the experience: occupational skills section, where the template previously indicated that the work experience and skills an applicant already had, offered no opportunities for sustainable long term employment in that field.

“So if I had someone sitting here who had a clerical background, I had to say to them, honestly, based on your current skill level, if I look up on Workopolis are there going to be jobs there? Of course there are, so they couldn’t get scored here,” says Meshorer.

The new wording says there must be few opportunities for sustainable long-term employment, opening up the possibility of scoring higher for those who come from an industry not necessarily in decline, but where the options and earning potential are limited.

That one little word could make all the difference for applicant Courtney Muehlen, who applied under the November 2009 guidelines and came just one point short of qualifying.

“The counselor said that because I had waitressing and administrative background, I had applicable skills, but those aren’t the kind of skills that can really provide you with a long-term career,” says Muehlen.

The new wording would mean Muehlen might be able to score enough points to qualifying for Second Career funding.

Of course, these changes won’t be enough if to qualify an applicant if they don’t do all the leg work and research that are required to qualify for Second Career funding.

An applicant still needs to have been laid off after January 1, 2005, be unemployed and demonstrate occupational demand for the training request with evidence of good employment prospects locally or within Ontario.

If a person does qualify, they could be eligible for up to $28, 000 dollars in funding. Some of the other perks of the program include the ministry covering the cost of childcare above the allotment, and if an additional year of academic upgrading or language training is required the ministry will provide additional funding.

The changes in Second Career are well timed with the recent service improvements to Employment Ontario. Starting in August any office that is funded through Employment Ontario will also offer Second Career counseling, dramatically increasing the number of locations applicants can go to. However with a change this big, it will take some time to train qualified counselors. Though the Second Career website now indicates all Employment Ontario locations as offering Second Career counseling, the roll-out period begins in August, and won’t be completed at all locations until March 2011, so if you’re interested in the program, it’s best to call ahead and ensure there is a qualified counselor at the Employment Ontario location nearest.

Andrew Sutherland is a Toronto based freelance journalist.

Toronto, Canada