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Ont. invests in agri-food jobs

Ont. invests in agri-food jobs

Employers can apply for funding on eligible costs incurred working to fill labour needs

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer
Farms.com 

Recently, the government of Ontario announced an investment of up to $1.5 million to help employers in the agriculture and food industries fill their labour needs. 

On October 21 a new intake opened for employers to apply for up to 70 per cent funding of eligible expenses. Projects may include “implementing new, enhanced or expanded approaches to attract and retain labour, planning, analyzing and assessing labour force needs, and implementing training to address identified workforce needs,” said the Oct. 21 release from the Ont. government. 

Employers in the agri-food industry face many challenges attracting and retaining candidates for jobs, Kathryn Doan told Farms.com. She’s the director of AgCareers.com, CareersInFood.com, FoodGrads.com and DeLacy Executive Recruitment North America. 

“Agriculture production now requires highly skilled individuals and as labour challenges persist, businesses will continue to invest in greater levels of technology, hence increasing the required skill sets for employees,” she explained. 

Other factors, including working conditions and location – which is often in rural settings – make finding general labour challenging. 

The industry needs to work on the “continual improvement around the image of agriculture and food production,” she said. Employers should ensure “agriculture jobs speak to potential candidates around the skills and expertise required and differentiating from general labour jobs.”

They should also be “ensuring compensation is fair and reflective of the work,” she added. “Labour costs continue to increase, as such ensuring a fair compensation package that includes both financial and non-financial benefits such health and benefit packages and consideration for longer term retirement planning need be considered.”

Once employers have qualified candidates, they “need to develop retention strategies,” Doan explained. “Now more than ever, staff have other options for job or career advancements from general labour to high skilled requirements.

“Continual improvement and development of employees is key for longer term opportunities, having plans and communicating these plans so that team members remain engaged and know their future,” she said. “Ag employers need to increase their levels applying human resource principles to managing people including performance management, annual compensation review and recognizing the work that strong performing people give to their organization.”

Employers looking to apply for government funding to address their labour needs can implement a number of projects and practices that may help. 

They may look to attract new talent through education, incentives, and training, Doan said. 

Business owners should also focus on keeping salaries competitive, offering flexible work solutions (such as working from home), and ensuring managers and business owners have strong Human Resources skills, she added. 

Future government programs should also focus on those strategic objectives, as well as supporting companies that provide career and job services to the agri-food industry, she explained. 

“The continuation of a strong domestic food system will need businesses to continue to modernize,” Doan said. “The labour crisis is not about to diminish.”

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