Nova Scotia’s small businesses now have greater access to programs that help them hire new talent, improve their operations and build a stronger economy. Labour and Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis highlighted government’s new investments for Nova Scotia businesses today, Oct. 20, as part of Small Business Week. “Small businesses continue to be economic drivers of the province. By helping them, we are helping to make our province stronger,” said Mr. Kousoulis. “Government is committed to working with business to help them grow and hire more Nova Scotians.” Government is increasing funding for the Graduate to Opportunity (GTO) program by $1.7 million bringing the total annual investment to $4.9 million. This program has provided a wage subsidy to 200 Nova Scotia employers that hired more than 350 new graduates since it was introduced in 2015. “The financial incentive makes it easier for small business owners like me to take a chance on hiring a new grad,” said Saeed El-Darahali, founder, president and CEO of SimplyCast who has hired five recent graduates with support from the program. “Also, the application process is simple and approved applications are turned around in a few days.” Introducing this program to more Nova Scotia employers has the potential to support up to 1,200 new jobs over the next four years. Government is also creating a new hiring incentive program, called Innovate to Opportunity. Similar to Graduate to Opportunity, the new program can provide a wage subsidy, to employers who hire recent graduates from masters and PhD programs for research and innovation focused jobs. The budget is set at $1.7 million. To further increase research-based innovation in industry, government and academia, government is also supporting 94 more research internships, for a total of 161 this year, through the Mitacs Accelerate program. The additional funding provided is about $380,000. Many businesses need more people with specialized skills and technical trades. Starting this fall, government began covering the cost of tuition for apprentices returning to the classroom for their technical training. In addition, this year, government is expanding the Apprenticeship START Program, which supports small and medium-sized businesses in hiring apprentices from under-represented groups or in rural areas. With the additional $2 million in funding, this program can support 700 positions across the province. Small business week is Oct. 15 to Oct. 21. It celebrates entrepreneurship and recognizes the contribution of Nova Scotia’s small and medium-sized businesses, which employ almost half of all workers in the province.