The Department of Community Services is creating opportunities for eligible income assistance recipients to get the education they need for a brighter future. Community Services Minister Judy Streatch announced today, Oct. 26, a new pilot program called Career Seek which will allow income assistance clients to attend university or a post-secondary education program of more than two years and still receive benefits from the income assistance program. “An education can be the key to success for individuals. We are empowering people to achieve their full potential by supporting income assistance recipients as they pursue a post-secondary education,” said Ms. Streatch. “Our investment is creating opportunities for the people we serve to become more self-sufficient and financially independent, and demonstrates our commitment to a vibrant future for Nova Scotia.” Individuals who have received income assistance for 12 months and have identified a post-secondary education as part of their employment plan, are eligible to apply for Career Seek. Over the next four years, 50 individuals each year will have an opportunity to participate in this program. The first participants could start their programs as early as January 2007. Career Seek participants who have been accepted into a post-secondary program are required to explore all funding options including student assistance, scholarships, bursaries and any other sources of income available to them. Program assistance will depend on an identified gap between an individuals resources and current income assistance rates. “Increasing access to university and post-secondary education programs of more than two years by enabling the continuation of benefits from the income assistance program, is a welcome step forward,” said Stephanie Hunter, co-ordinator, Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy. “Career Seek will help with the extra financial pressures a post-secondary education can bring by providing assistance to address any gaps in resources and for other special needs like child care, pharmacare and transportation.” Community Services employment counsellors will work with participants throughout the Career Seek program. Prior to applying for Career Seek, individuals complete a career assessment to identify post secondary programs that meet their goals and provide marketable skills needed in the labour market. At the end of each semester, participants will review their transcripts with their employment councillor to ensure they are meeting their goals. Community Services offers a wide range of programs and services to help individuals achieve greater self sufficiency, including literacy and academic upgrading, and specialized skills training. Community Services also helps individuals attend programs of up to two years at the Nova Scotia Community College. Other government programs like student assistance are also available to help low-income individuals pursue a post secondary education. “We’ve been talking with community and student leaders, and we agree that an education is a key factor in helping people achieve their full potential,” said Ms. Streatch. “Many sectors in Nova Scotia are in need of educated and skilled workers. Career Seek will help income assistance recipients get the education they need to increase their employment options and address the need for more skilled workers.” According to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, Maritime graduates earned 44 per cent more, and first-degree holders 23 per cent more, five years after graduation than other working Canadians with a high school diploma. Since 1998-99, the number of people receiving income assistance has declined from 42,000 to about 30,000. Each year, up to 10,000 individuals participate in employment support programs. Last year, Community Services helped about 3,100 income assistance recipients return to the work force. For more information about Career Seek, please contact the Community Services office nearest you, or see the website at www.gov.ns.ca/coms .