The Ontario government is teaming up with Research in Motion to help laid off technology workers. On Monday they announced a job action center to help its former workers find new employment.

The Blackberry maker decided to lay off 5000 employees in June as part of a restructuring plan meant to help the company get back on its feet. About 2000 lay off notices have already been given out. There is speculation that this new announcement was meant to coincide with the remaining 3000 lay offs, but RIM isn’t commenting.

“This is a difficult transition that we are going through, and we absolutely do not like being in this position,” said Andrew McLeod, RIM’s Managing Director of Canada.

More than half of the company's 16,500 employees -- about 9,000 -- work in Waterloo and surrounding areas.

Communitech, which lobbies on behalf of tech companies in Waterloo Region, as well as the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, will also be involved in the plan to help laid off workers.

The universities are adding spaces in entrepreneurship and business programs, to help workers develop their skills.

Tim Jackson, the University of Waterloo’s vice-president of University Relations, says the school may “provide a specific course to displaced technology workers to allow them to start their own business.”

“We’re exploring all the options right now,” says Michael Kelly, Dean of Wilfrid Laurier’s School of Business. “Possibly helping them through the traditional programs we have.”

Meanwhile Communitech and Employment Ontario will help workers find new tech jobs.

The province is also creating a job action centre where laid-off workers can look for new jobs, get employment counseling or go back to school.

Rick Costanzo, RIM's executive vice-president of global sales, said the company approached the provincial government and local community about the transition process after it had details of the cost-cutting plan.

"We announced a plan to realize close to a billion dollars in terms of cost savings between now and the end of the fiscal year, and unfortunately, job eliminations are part and parcel of that."

He would not say how many employees have been laid off in the Waterloo-area, where the firm's global headquarters is located.

The provincial government hasn’t said how much taxpayers will have to pay for the program.

Brad Duguid, the province’s Minister of Economic Development, was in Waterloo for the announcement. “We’ll need what we need to spend to make this action centre work,” he said.

Duguid also shot down speculation that his appearance in Waterloo Region was tied to the provincial byelection on September 6th. “We would be here with or without the byelection.”

The seat in Kitchener-Waterloo became vacant after Progressive Conservative Elizabeth Witmer resigned to become chairwoman of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. A win in the byelection could help the minority Liberals gain a majority in the provincial legislature.

Last week Lawyer Eric Davis has been nominated to run for the Liberals in the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection.

The riding of Vaughan, north of Toronto, will also hold a byelection on the same day. That seat became vacant after veteran Liberal Greg Sorbara resigned last week.

The Liberals missed winning a third consecutive majority by one seat in last October's election, but could regain that majority by winning the two byelections.

RIM has been making cuts across its operations to help counter faltering sales of its smartphones, particularly in North America.

RIM has been working to turn around its operations after watching its market share erode as consumers switched to Apple's iPhone and other smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

The company's future success rides on the unveiling of its BlackBerry 10 operating system, which has suffered two major delays that have pushed its debut into early 2013.

Also on Monday, the company refused to comment on a published report that it was looking at selling its cloud-services assets, the latest in a series of rumoured deals the company is said to be perusing.

With files from The Canadian Press