On December 12, 2019 the Agriculture Economic Development and Planning Community of Practice hosted a webinar on the future of the agri-food workforce. This webinar focused on workforce challenges in the agri-food sector and methods in which economic development organizations and practitioners can use data and strategies to address these challenges.
Cassi Brunsveld from AgScape spoke on the challenging issue of how to engage youth in the agricultural sector. Here are some of the key highlights:
- Students often believe the misconception that the only job in the agriculture industry is farming.
- Integrating youth into the agri-sector is crucial for Ontario as 37% of the agriculture workforce is expected to retire by 2029.
- The Teacher Ambassador Program developed by AgScape can help bridge the gap between youth and the agri-food labour market. This program is aimed at students from grades 7-12 in which students can learn what the agriculture industry is about and the viable career pathways the industry offers.
Through connecting youth with agriculture representatives and drawing real life connections to people within their communities, we can debunk the farming misconception and spark interest in the agri-food sector.
Debra Hauer from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council presented data and research on how labour challenges will shape the future of agriculture in Ontario, offering a forecast to 2029.
- For the past 15-20 years, Ontario employers in the agri-sector have been struggling to find Canadian workers, leading to an increasing dependence on temporary foreign workers.
- The impact of labour shortages in the agricultural industry includes excessive stress for the employers and staff, production delays, lost sales, delayed expansion, and overtime costs.
- Immigrants will account for a growing share of the labour force in the future and by 2025 all labour force growth in Canada will be driven by new immigrants.
- Ontario will continue to experience a decrease in its number of young workers.
Looking towards the future, we can address these labour challenges by:
- expanding the role of local governments to assist with agricultural employment creation,
- supporting temporary foreign workers, and
- encouraging students to join the sector by promoting agri-food careers in post-secondary institutions.
The future of the agri-workforce may face challenges, however, with effective planning and the implementation of innovative programs, we can learn to adapt and overcome these challenges. Thank you to our wonderful speakers for their insightful presentations!
For a copy of this presentation please visit: https://transcripts.gotomeeting.com/#/s/6bd29858ecddd68dfc8dafcc0bac79c7742bc92c878dcdaebc417dc2b0fc23fd
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) have coordinated a free, online network to bring together economic development and planning professionals across Ontario interested in agricultural issues. The quarterly meeting topics will be based on relevant municipal policies, procedures and programming impacting the agricultural sector.
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