Ottawa, ON – For decades, Canada has been a world leading exporter of agricultural products and its contribution to food production is expected to continue to grow in the years to come. Unfortunately, most provinces and many commodities are affected by chronic labour shortages. In 2018 more than 16,400 positions went unfilled, costing the industry $2.9 billion in lost sales.
The Labour Market Forecast to 2029 assists with understanding today’s agricultural workforce requirements to be able to source and train an adequate workforce.
In many industries, advancements in technology have reduced labour requirements, but they have also resulted in the need for workers with highly technical and advanced skills. The forecast indicates that with the evolving skills required to work in many agriculture sectors, training will be essential to improve the expertise of workers and secure a qualified workforce. The inability to fill these positions will have an impact on future productivity.
A shift in skills also brings with it new career opportunities. The development and promotion of ag-related training and careers will be essential to creating interest in working in agriculture, and addressing the need for more highly skilled workers. Promoting agriculture as an exciting and challenging career path will generate benefits for the entire sector.
As the AgriWorkforce adapts to more sophisticated needs, so too will the skills and abilities of farm managers to effectively work with their employees. Many farmers rely on international workers for labour. However, applications for Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) programs are complex and to successfully navigate these initiatives requires a deeper understanding of human resource management techniques. Not following all the regulations related to TFW programs can result in serious consequences for farmers’ businesses.
Regardless of the source of labour, ensuring farm employers have human resource skills to manage their workforce is critical. The adoption of best practices in human resource management and manager training will assist the agriculture sector with the development of more effective recruitment and retention strategies. Farm business owners need to be knowledgeable about the latest human resource practices to support employees on the farm.
“We are on our way toward determining what it will take to have a sustainable workforce for agriculture,” says Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, Executive Director of the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council. “Developing and implementing training and education programs that support the future needs of the sector will certainly be one solution for ensuring a healthy future for Canadian agriculture.”
To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC also offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.
The labour market forecast research was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide including: 1,704 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders, and eight webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 170 participants in total. National data from the forecast can found in the report Agriculture 2029: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future. The research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.