The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing $350,000 in labour market research and resources to assist the sector in growing the agriculture and agri-food workforce for coming years.
“Today’s jobs in agriculture and food production are diverse, rewarding, and employ many different skill sets,” said Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “This investment will help grow the sector’s workforce and ensure Ontarians have the necessary skills to start fulfilling careers in agriculture.”
“The Ontario government is committed to doing everything we can to support our farmers and food processors to meet their labour needs, especially at this challenging time,” said Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “This project is one more way for us to invest in our farmers and the entire food supply chain so they can continue delivering high-quality food to Ontario families.”
Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the governments are providing funding to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) to develop a common set of labour data for Ontario’s agri-food sector to use and assist the industry to prepare their own labour action plans.
The agriculture sector is the economic engine of Ontario, supporting 97,800 jobs in primary agriculture including 28,800 temporary foreign workers, and over 101,000 jobs in food and beverage processing in 2018.
In past weeks, the COVID-19 crisis has accentuated labour shortages in the sector. Many agriculture and agri-food employers consider labour shortages as their top issue as they deal with the fallout from the current crisis.
The goal of the two-year project is to assist Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food industry in addressing increasing labour shortages while preparing Ontarians with the future skills needed to work in the sector. Information about labour markets are described in many ways and can be confusing to job seekers and employers. The project will develop a common framework for describing the agricultural and agri-food labour market so that job seekers and agri-food employers can understand where the jobs are and the skills needed to work in the sector. The project will also develop and pilot tem- plates for industry associations to use to develop their own subsector workforce action plans. With these action plans, Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food sector will be able to assist employers to find and keep workers and help their workforce to adapt to emerging skills that will be needed in the coming decade. Ultimately, these workforce action plans will help the agriculture and agri-food industry secure a highly skilled workforce to grow the industry in future years.
“Ontario’s bright production outlook for agriculture is dependent on ensuring there are enough workers to actuate the sector’s growth potential,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, Executive Director of CAHRC. “This project will let us assess the current needs, then develop programs and training opportunities to prepare the up-and-coming workforce for an exciting and satisfying career in agriculture while filling that labour gap.