10/24/2014 05:09 EDT | Updated 12/24/2014 05:59 EST

Canada Job Grant applications being accepted from B.C. employers: minister

VANCOUVER - The federal employment minister has announced that B.C. businesses can now submit applications for a training program for future workers, with Ottawa footing most of the bill.

Jason Kenney said the federal government will provide employers with up to $10,000 for each person trained through the Canada Job Grant if there's a commitment to hire the trainee.

Businesses will have to contribute the remaining cost of up to $5,000, Kenney said, though that amount will be reduced if a trainee is paid as part of the program that is being rolled out separately across the country, except in Quebec, where it was rejected.

"British Columbia will be administering this program with federal funds that we transfer for skills development and the employer has to put some skin in the game," Kenney told a news conference Monday at a construction site in downtown Vancouver.

"One of the challenges we face in Canada is that governments are investing a whole lot of tax dollars in skills development and jobs training, in fact, more than virtually any other developed country in the world," Kenney said. "But the private sector employers aren't investing as much as other countries."

He said up to 900 British Columbians are expected to benefit from the Canada Job Grant within a year, and about 3,500 people will be trained by the time it's fully implemented in 2017.

"Altogether, we estimate that nearly 16,000 British Columbians will benefit from the Canada Job Grant," Kenney said.

B.C.'s jobs minister, Shirley Bond, said small businesses will get support in applying for the program that can also be used to retrain existing employees under some conditions.

"The most important thing is, if you're going to train someone we want them linked to a job."

She said about one million job openings are expected in the province by 2022 as the population ages and skilled workers are needed in the liquefied natural gas industry and other sectors including forestry and tourism.

The Canada Job Grant was introduced in the 2013 federal budget and called for the $15,000 training cost for each eligible worker to be divided equally among Ottawa, the provinces and employers.

The provinces and territories opposed the program, saying Ottawa would claw back federal money for successful job-training programs they ran and force them to find millions of dollars more to cover their portion of the grant.

But in February, Kenney agreed to several changes, including covering the provincial portion of the grant.