The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council’s newly released Labour Market Forecast to 2029 indicates that Canada’s agriculture producers continually face challenges related to securing an adequate workforce. In a survey of farm employers, over 47% of respondents saying they could not fill their labour needs. Across the sector over one in three responded that they receive zero Canadian applicants when they post an available job.
Considering that approximately 37% of the workforce is expected to retire in the next ten years, the Labour Market Forecast indicates that there will be an increasing labour shortfall. Solutions to resolve worker shortages include focusing on untapped potential within Canada, as well as looking outside the domestic workforce.
Employers look to hire Canadians first and then recruit international workers when no Canadians can be found to work on their farms. International workers are a valuable source of labour for the Canadian agriculture sector. Jobs filled by international workers have increased from almost 45,600 jobs in 2014 to nearly 60,000 in 2017, representing one in every six positions in the Canadian AgriWorkforce.
Non-traditional sources of labour can help to ease labour market pressures. The agriculture industry can work to recruit people who have not been strongly connected to the sector to find a rewarding career. Underrepresented groups, such as young Canadians, women and Indigenous people, present tremendous opportunity for addressing workforce shortages, and bring new experiences and ideas to the workforce.
Immigrants are another diverse source of skills and knowledge. Although 4% of today’s AgriWorkforce have come to Canada in the last 5 years, most new Canadians are less likely to choose a career in agriculture than in other sectors. Encouraging communities and local governments to promote community activities, schools and recreational programs will help to alleviate concerns and encourage people to move to their vibrant rural areas for agricultural employment.
Changing negative perceptions surrounding living and working in rural areas, and promoting agriculture as a rewarding career will create long-lasting benefits for the sector. There is a general lack of awareness about working in food producing industries. If business, education and government agencies are able to position agriculture as a viable and exciting career path for Canadians, the result will be more people interested in working in food production careers.
“A diverse labour force with the right set of skills will help the sector achieve its maximum potential,” states Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, Executive Director of CAHRC. “And continuing to find ways to make agriculture an attractive and viable career path will be important in accessing more of the domestic workforce. It will take concerted effort, multiple strategies and a sustained approach so that we can truly make a difference.”
To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC also offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.
The labour market forecast research was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide including: 1704 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders, and eight webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 170 participants in total. National data from the forecast can be found in the report Agriculture 2029: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future. The research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.