The feds committed $9.2 million to the Youth Employment and Skills Program to fund 700 new positions for youth in the ag industry
By Jackie Clark
The Government of Canada is investing $9.2 million in the Youth Employment and Skills Program (YESP) to “fund up to 700 new positions for youth in the agricultural industry,” a May 26 release from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said.
Through the YESP program, employers can access up to $14,000 to support 50 per cent of wages, as well as up to $5,000 to cover 100 per cent of relocation costs, and $5,000 to address employment barriers.
Indigenous individuals or organizations as well as employers applying for the YESP program who hire a youth facing employment barriers, can receive coverage for up to 80 per cent of eligible costs, to a maximum of $14,000. Government officials will assess employment barriers on a case-by-case basis. Potential barriers include youth living with a disability, being a single parent, or having involvement with the justice system, the YESP applicant guide said.
“This additional funding will help the agricultural industry attract Canadian youth, ages 15 to 30, to their organizations to assist with labour shortages brought on by the pandemic. This program aims to provide youth, and particularly youth facing barriers to employment, with job experience in agriculture that will provide career-related work experience,” the AAFC statement said.
Past iterations of the YESP program have helped agricultural associations recruit talent, and youth connect to the ag industry.
“Last year, Junior Farmers hired a young adult through the program as a marketing specialist,” Elizabeth Bruce said to Farms.com. She’s the president of the Junior Farmer’s Association of Ontario.
“That was a cool opportunity for us. As a non-profit organization, we wouldn’t normally be able to hire somebody … but the program allowed us to reach out,” she said. “It was something we needed to do but didn’t have the resources to do, so (the program) helped open that avenue.”
The YESP program can also help youth from outside the agricultural community get involved in the industry.
“The individual we hired didn’t have much of an agricultural background, so we could expose her more to the industry,” Bruce said.
Considering the COVID-19 crisis, agricultural work may provide an alternative to jobs in the service and retail industry, Bruce added. While university and college students in other specialties are sometimes disappointed in the lack of job opportunities, graduating students in agricultural programs often hear that an abundance of open positions exist in their industry.
The YESP program may be an important option to help connect young people looking for work with an industry that needs labour.
“We could use more youth because we can’t fill our jobs,” Bruce said. “Focusing on creating jobs for youth in agriculture right now might (lead to) getting more people involved and engaged who otherwise would go to other industries.”
Junior Farmers officials are still considering whether the YESP program will fit their needs and budget again this year. However, they praise the benefits of the program.
“We had a great experience with the program last year. It helped meet our needs and fit within our budget,” Bruce said.
Producers, agri-businesses, industry associations, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous organizations and research facilities can apply now, and the funding is retroactive to April 1, 2020.