The industry could experience an employment gap of 65,000 people by 2025
By Diego Flammini
Industry organizations are working together to ensure Canada’s ag and food and beverage manufacturing sectors have an ample number of employees to fill vacant positions.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), the Future Skills Centre and Food and Beverage Canada are collaborating on a national workforce strategy to address employment gaps in these industries.
“There’s a labour shortage in every sector of ag and there has been for quite some time,” Paul Glenn, chair of CAHRC, told Farms.com.
“Labour challenges in agriculture have been ongoing for decades, and are one of the most prominent factors obstructing the remarkable growth potential that had been identified for Canadian agriculture and our agri-food industry as a whole,” Mary Robinson, president of the CFA, said in a statement.
And those labour shortages could increase in the coming years.
Food Processing Skills Canada estimates the food and beverage sectors could experience an employment gap of up to 65,000 people by 2025.
And recent CAHRC findings discovered Canadian farmers lost nearly $3 billion in 2020 because of employment issues related to the pandemic.
“These aren’t small numbers, and that’s why this workforce strategy is important,” Glenn said.
This two-year project will be more than only data collection.
In year one, the organizations will gather information about programs and services currently available, then identify gaps and make new program development and tool recommendations.
In the second year, the organizations, stakeholders and government will provide input on the National Workforce Strategy for Agriculture and Food and Beverage Manufacturing.
The goal is to outline tangible ways of ensuring these sectors remain staffed, Glenn said.
“We’re going to create an actionable roadmap the sector can take to address issues,” he said. “The strategy would outline the complete vision for the future, priorities and stakeholder commitments. We’re going to take a deep dive and examine things like the impact of automation and technology on skill requirements. This will help an employer identify the kind of employee they need and what they have to do to attract that person.”
Agriculture is a major employer in Canada.
In 2017, 2.3 million jobs, or one of every eight, were related to agriculture and agri-food.
Despite its importance to the workforce, the industry has a hard time recruiting employees because of its regional nature, Glenn said.
“Production and processing for the most part isn’t done in major city centres, it’s done in rural areas,” he said. “And it’s more than just the job. You might be trying to attract someone to a rural area, but then you’ve got to factor in other things like school or entertainment.”