The provincial and federal governments are investing in a pilot program at Conestoga College and supporting other industry efforts to attract workers to the industry
By Jackie Clark
The federal and provincial governments recently committed to funding projects to help the agricultural industry in Ontario meet its labour needs.
That investment incudes “more than $180,000 for the development of a new college program that will provide education and training in the latest agricultural equipment,” an Oct. 2 release said.
“The federal and provincial governments will assist Conestoga College in the creation, launch and delivery of a pilot program to expand the training opportunities for current farm sector employees and better prepare those interested in careers in agriculture to work on farms in key areas,” the release said.
This college opportunity may attract people to agriculture who otherwise may not have considered the industry for their careers.
“If you are looking at some kind of equipment operating (program) and you go into Conestoga’s course catalogue not thinking about agriculture but, all of a sudden there’s this course, it will pique your interest,” Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), told Farms.com. “It’s going to train more people to get into our field, into the agri-food industry, which is what we desperately need. We are sorely lacking in numbers.”
The funding funnels through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which also contributed $396,000 to the OFA to provide support for attracting workers to the industry, the Oct. 2 announcement said.
That investment occurred in the spring. The OFA worked with partners to create the Feeding your Future program, which is a job concierge for the ag industry, Currie explained.
“This announcement will get it out to the broader public,” he said. “We’ll continue to push this program – we’re connecting with people like Tourism Ontario, for example. … A number of people who are mechanically inclined work on things that could find application in the agri-food industry.”
Because Ontario’s tourism and hospitality industries are suffering with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, OFA representatives are interested in exploring how they can connect those folks who may be out of work with agri-food roles.
Many industries will likely see more hardships as the effect of the pandemic endures, Currie said. In the ag industry, experts can “look at the people who are out of work and (investigate) how we can connect them to getting back to work.”
Labour shortages in the ag industry started long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currie thinks efforts to address labour needs must include both short-term emergency fixes and longer-term solutions.
“I think it’s connecting people in the short term,” he said. “But it also is looking at the fact that we’re trying to grow the industry. … How do we grow that and connect people to the fact we have opportunities in agriculture?”
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