Best Wage Subsidies for Ontario Businesses: 24 Hiring Grants to Grow Your Business

If you’ve never heard of wage subsidies before, you’re in for a treat!

Because wage subsidies are the quickest, easiest way to get free money for your business.

(Well, not exactly free money – you get free labour, paid for by the government.)

And in this guide, we cover the best wage subsidies for Ontario businesses!

What is a Wage Subsidy?

A wage subsidy is a financial incentive given to employers to help them maintain their workforce and prevent layoffs during difficult economic times.

A wage subsidy is usually provided by government and is typically a percentage of the employee’s salary or wage, paid directly to the employer.

Wage subsidies often target students, recent graduates, the unemployed, or underrepresented groups.

Benefits of Wage Subsidies vs Grants

There are many reasons why you should consider wage subsidy programs as your entry into government funding. Here are just a few benefits of wage subsidies:

  • Less competitive than grants. Grants = free money in most people’s mind. As a result, grant programs can be very competitive. Wage subsidy programs tend to be less competitive. Also keep in mind that many wage subsidy programs are first-come-first served, so as long as you meet the program’s criteria and get your application in early, you should get the funding.
  • Shorter waiting time. It can take months to hear back about your grant application. Wage subsidy applications are usually processed in weeks.
  • Easier to apply for. The wage application process tends to be much less onerous than grants or loans.
  • They’re “stackable”. This is an extremely important concept to understand when you’re trying to maximize your government funding. “Stackable” means that a program can be combined (“stacked” on top of) other programs – which means you can two (or more) financial incentives for the same employee.

What Wage Subsidies Cover

Beyond covering a portion of wages or salary (a percentage of salary, or fixed per-hour dollar value), wage subsidies sometimes pay for the following expenses:

  • Employee benefits
  • Training/skills development
  • Equipment or clothing needed to do a job
  • Travel

Requirements for Wage Subsidies

As with any financial incentive program, the requirements to qualify for a wage subsidy varies by program. But there are some common criteria that businesses must meet. Here are some typical requirements:

  • Business registration in your province of operation
  • CRA payroll account
  • Funds to cover employee wages/salary (because a wage subsidy reimburses the employer – the subsidy is not paid upfront)
  • Job description (employee duties; hours of work; pay)

What to Use Wage Subsidies For

Smart entrepreneurs look at wage subsidies as more than simply bringing in new bodies – they use wage subsidies in creative ways to grow their business.

Here are some creative ways you can use wage subsidies to grow your business:

  • Increase your marketing

While there aren’t many business grants available specifically for marketing, you can use wage subsidies to hire marketing staff.

Consider using wage subsidies to hire staff who have expertise in the following marketing activities:

  • Social media marketing
  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Digital marketing

One example: the Career Launcher Digital Tech Internship program can be used to hire a digital technology intern who is studying digital marketing.

  • Start exporting

Want to expand into international markets? Hire an employee who speaks the language of your target international market.

  • Grow your seasonal income

Is your business seasonal? Maybe you own a tourism-related business and make most of your money in the summer (or other season). There are wage subsidies available specifically to hire staff for tourism and hospitality businesses (one example: the Propel Student Work Placement Program).


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    • Do research & development (R&D)

    The beauty of this strategy is that there are also tax credits available for R&D (including the popular SR&ED tax credit). Use a wage subsidy to hire a graduate student to do advanced research for your business, then get a portion of the R&D costs back from the SR&ED program!

    • Improve your business’s technology

    Would custom software help your business be more efficient? Are there other technological improvements that your business needs? Some wage subsidies can be used to hire an employee with a technology background to:

    • Create custom software
    • Implement a CRM (customer relationship management) system
    • Custom code a website
    • Create an app for your customers

    Best Wage Subsidies for Ontario Businesses

    We have more than 70 subsidy programs in our grants database. We highlight a handful of the best below:

    1. Canada Summer Jobs Program

    The Canada Summer Jobs program provides wage subsidies to employers from not-for-profit organizations, the public sector, and private sector organizations with 50 or fewer full-time employees, to create quality summer work experiences for young people aged 15 to 30 years. Funded employers are not restricted to hiring students — all youth aged 15 to 30 years may be eligible participants.

    2. Student Work Placement Program (SWPP)

    The Student Work Placement Program provides wage subsidies to employers that offer quality student work placements. It gives post-secondary students across Canada paid work experience related to their field of study.

    Applications for wage subsidies are made through one of SWPP’s Employer Delivery Partners, a group of recognized associations and organizations that represent the interests of employers in various industries. Click here for the complete list of delivery organizations.

    Out of them, we have selected the following wage subsidies:

    Ontario Chamber of Commerce – Talent Opportunities Program (TOP)

    The Talent Opportunities Program (TOP) is an initiative of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce designed to help employers located anywhere in Canada hire college and university students on work-integrate learning (WIL) placements. Employers hiring eligible students may receive a wage subsidy up to 50% (up to a maximum of $7,000) per placement.

    TECHNATION – Career Ready Program

    Career Ready is TECHNATION’s wage subsidy program which supports businesses by financing their decision to hire a student for a work-term placement. This in turn creates a rewarding opportunity for students to apply their learning in real-world settings and puts them on a path to a bright career.

    Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) – Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Digital Subsidy

    ICTC’s WIL Digital is an innovative Work Integrated Learning program that helps employers grow their businesses by providing financial assistance for hiring post-secondary students.

    ICTC’s WIL Digital supports Canadian businesses that offer student work placements within the Digital Economy.

    Environmental Careers Organization of Canada (ECO Canada) – Co-op Student Work Placement

    The Co-op Student Work Placement wage subsidy covers up to 75% of a student’s wages up to a maximum of $7,500 when employers hire the brightest minds in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math (STEAM) and Business.

    MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network) – Magnet Student Work Placement Program (SWPP)

    The Magnet Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) provides employers with wage subsidies to hire post-secondary students for paid work experiences. Students in turn benefit with quality work experience so they can secure employment in their chosen fields of study.

    The application portal is open for the Summer 2023 term (May – August 2023).

    3. Science and Technology Internship Program: Green Jobs

    The Science and Technology (S&T) Internship Program provides wage subsidies to encourage organizations to hire and mentor interns and invest in the workforce of tomorrow.

    It also provides opportunities for youth to gain relevant work experience and skill development in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in the natural resources sectors: energy, forestry and mining, earth sciences, and clean technology.

    Funding to employers is provided by the program’s delivery organizations. So, if you’re a business in the natural resources sector, have a look at the following wage subsidy programs:

    The 2023-24 applications for employers and youth will open in Spring 2023. Check here for updates

    4. Environmental Careers Organization of Canada (ECO Canada) – Digital Skills for Youth (DS4Y)

    The Digital Skills for Youth program allows you to leverage the knowledge of a tech-savvy, educated youth population to future-proof your business.

    The Digital Skills for Youth program is a wage subsidy provided to SMEs that covers 80% of wages up to $18,000 for environmental jobs that require digital abilities.

    Examples of eligible roles include: digital marketers, developers, GIS specialists, drone operators, data analysts or IT specialists with an environmental focused role.

    5. Science Horizons Youth Internship Program (Environment and Climate Change Canada)

    The Science Horizons Youth Internship Program provides wage subsidies to eligible Canadian employers in the environmental science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors to hire recent university, college and polytechnic graduates. This program could give you a wage subsidy of up to $25,000 and up to $5,000 for skills development, training, and wrap-around services.

    If this sounds interesting, check the following programs to see if you qualify:

    6. IRAP Youth Employment Program (YEP)

    This nationwide youth employment incentive program helps incorporated SMEs in the industrial sector offer jobs with research and development, engineering, multimedia, or market analysis components to young workers aged 15 to 30. The intent is to create jobs and give young workers valuable skills and experience with a focus on developing new products or processes.

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