Wage Subsidy Programs: Boost Your Business and Reduce Your Costs

If you’re a small business owner who dreams of having the capital needed to expand your team, on a temporary or part-time basis, you can stop dreaming. Several wage subsidy programs are available to employers who want to benefit from the talent, knowledge and training that post-secondary students can bring to a workplace.

These programs, created to support students in work-integrated learning (WIL) programs, are also giving a boost to small businesses by giving them the funds to hire extra staff, especially useful during busy or critical times in the business cycle. Students also bring organizations the added benefit of current knowledge and training, and the eagerness to gain the on-the-job experience that you offer.

Students can help by conducting research and surveys, updating your technology, improving your marketing tools, developing your website, tackling long ignored projects that no one else on your team has the time or the ability to do, and helping to bring new products and services on stream.

Doug Buchanan, co-founder of the start-up Yalty Software, says his company benefited from wage subsidy grants that last year amounted to 75 per cent of the costs of their student hires. He said this allowed his company to use the talents and skills of ten people who worked on software, games, user interface, graphics and website development.

Asked if the administrative work in applying for government funding may be too cumbersome for some employers, Buchanan says, “When the government sends you $7,500 dollars out of a $10,000 [cost], it would be amazing to me that someone wouldn’t have the time for it.”

Buchanan says his company takes on the responsibility of giving students a meaningful work experience to heart. He also believes that hiring students gives his company an advantage when it’s time to recruit full-time employees, which in his industry, is a highly competitive market.

How to Get the Funding

Applying for the funding is a straightforward process as long as you ensure that that you and the student you select meet the basic qualifications of the program. Pay close attention to the program prerequisites, such as residency status, business registration, and so on.

It is also important to ensure that each step of the application procedure is followed and the supporting documentation is submitted in full. You should receive the results of your application within approximately 5-10 business days, as long as you have submitted the application properly and thoroughly.

In terms of timing, most programs approve wage subsidy funding at certain months of the year, but many have a rolling application process so that you can apply as soon as you get prepared with your documentation. Typically, the subsidy funds are given to employers as a reimbursement, at the end of the student’s term with the company.

Finding a Student

Some employers may wonder how to find the right student for the placement. The Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning BC/Yukon (ACE-WIL) has a job portal where your posting is automatically forwarded to the BC public post-secondary institutions you’ve selected.

The website also includes institution and program information so you can contact them directly, if you prefer. As well, the funding partners may have suggestions for job posting links specific to their industry. Ultimately though, it is the responsibility of the employer to find a student to place.

To be eligible for the grants, the students must be able to work in Canada, have Canadian status and be enrolled in a program at a Canadian accredited post-secondary institution.

More Resources Available at ACE-WIL

For more resources to help you with funding, recruiting and working with WIL students, visit the ACE-WIL website. There’s a full list of the funding available, access to two new advisory programs, COVID-19 Toolkits, and more.

Bottom line: bringing on a student to your business through these programs can not only bring new efficiencies, new business and improved offerings, it is obviously helpful to your cashflow.

Details on several provincial and federal funding programs

Tech Co-op Grants Program – Innovate BC is a provincial government agency that supports BC-based technology start-ups including funding students to work for companies with less than 500 employees. The Tech-Co-op Grants Program (TCGP) can grant up to $20,000 per year to hire co-op students

For more information about the program requirements and how and when to apply for funding, email: [email protected].

Innovator Skills Initiative – This program defines an innovator as a person who produces or introduces new methods, ideas, or products.  The Innovator Skills Initiative provides up to $10,000 a year for B.C.-based companies (both tech companies and non-tech organizations) that are eligible to receive the funding to hire undergrad and graduate students on a full or part-time basis.  Contact: [email protected]

Student Work Placement Program (SWPP)This is a federal government funded program created to give students the opportunity to be job-ready and earn the skills employers are looking for. The program is delivered for the government by recognized industry associations and organizations that serve as Partners to recruit and assist employers with information and referrals.

In exchange for the funding support, the SWPP expects employers to offer students a meaningful work experience where they have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills that ideally will contribute to their development and career path.

Reasons for disqualification for SWPP funding

  • The applicant is a government body, or a financial institution
  • The student is an immediate family member of somebody in the employer’s organization
  • The position is already subsidized by other federal funding
  • The applicant submitted an incomplete application or one that lacked the necessary documentation

Amount of the Subsidy

SWPP provides up to 50 percent of the wage cost for a student placement (up to a maximum of $5,000 per placement) and up to 70 percent (up to a maximum of $7,000 per placement) for first-year students and under-represented groups, such as women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Indigenous students, people with disabilities and newcomers.

Students must be placed as an employee, not as a contractor. For the student’s protection, the employer must be compliant with Human Rights and Labor legislation, regulations, and laws, and also maintain general liability insurance to cover claims for bodily injury or property damage resulting from anything that could be done or omitted by the student during the placement period.

The Application process

  • Step 1: Identify a student you would like to hire.
  • Step 2: Select the partner provider to create an account and start your application
  • Step 3: Complete the student application form with supporting documentation
  • Step 4: Submit the application for review and feedback

You will need:

  • Your company information (Business / Charitable Registration Number, address, company size, Void Cheque, Bank information, etc.)
  • Student information (position details, contact details, wages, etc.)
  • The student’s Proof of Enrollment from a Canadian accredited post-secondary institution that covers the period of the work placement. Graduates are not qualified for this program.

More funding program information is available at the ACE-WIL website.