The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is funding the 14-week program
By Diego Flammini
A post-secondary school in Manitoba is offering a tuition-free ag equipment program to a select group of students.
Assiniboine Community College (ACC) is welcoming 15 Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) people living off-reserve to participate in its Ag Equipment Operator Program.
The 14-week program, delivered in-person at the North Hill campus in Brandon, begins in February with a one-week preparatory safety course.
From there, students will receive an 11-week comprehensive education on multiple pieces of farm equipment, said Gerald Cathcart, business development coordinator with ACC.
“If it’s got wheels and is on a farm, we’re going to be looking at it,” Cathcart told Farms.com. “This includes tractors, combines, a telehandler, sprayers, grain carts and swathers. Maintenance is a key piece of the puzzle. Employers aren’t expecting new hires to be able to fix a piece of equipment, but the new employees should know how to do the walkaround inspections, what to listen and what to look out for.”
After the in-class portion of the program, students will apply their newfound knowledge during an 80-hour paid work placement on a Manitoba farm.
The placement will take place between the middle and end of May.
The hope is these placements turn into permanent positions to help address labour challenges, Cathcart said.
“One of Assiniboine’s objectives is to meet the needs of the labour market,” Cathcart said. “We’re hopeful this program can help the students find long-term employment on farms in Manitoba.”
The industry’s labour difficulties are well documented.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council estimates that by 2029, Manitoba will have 5,300 more ag jobs than the domestic labour force can fill.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) and its Indigenous Sills and Employment Training Program is providing the funding for the program at ACC.
Offering the program to people living off-reserve is by design, said Sarah Mitchell, national project coordinator with CAP.
“Indigenous people living off-reserve oftentimes experience challenges in being able to access funding for skills training,” she told Farms.com. “The ultimate goal is to remove barriers for people trying to enter the labour market.”
CAP is funding this program once, but the organization accepts calls for project proposals on an annual basis, Mitchell said.
Manitoba’s ag industry, including Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), helped shape the curriculum for the program.
Modern ag equipment is complex and having skilled professionals available to operate the equipment is crucial for the industry, said KAP President Bill Campbell.
“There needs to be proper training that reflects the nature of the equipment,” he told Farms.com. “We think we’ve got good program materials to help students understand and operate the equipment so they can be valuable members of the ag community and labour force.”