Exposing students to career paths in agriculture helps build a stronger workforce

March 6, 2024

Anyone who works in the agriculture industry understands that the sector is a place with many diverse opportunities to make an impact. For those who are on the periphery, this is less understood. 

We know this from CAHRC’s perception research, released last fall. A majority of Canadians (54 per cent) were unable to identify a job in the agricultural industry that is not a farmer, pointing to a general lack of awareness. Despite this, 76 per cent of Canadians say they view the industry positively, with 54 per cent claiming they would consider switching careers. 

Understanding that workforce growth is required to keep Canada’s agriculture sector a top performer at home and on the world stage, it is important to think about how to attract and retain the next generation of workers. 

Opportunities worth growing  

Our young people are our future and offer a snapshot of what is possible for agriculture in the years ahead. What we also know from our research is that a majority (55 per cent) of students aged 16-24 and parents of teenage children aged 14-17 are interested in learning more about career opportunities in the agriculture industry and would consider a career in this industry. 

At CAHRC, we are committed to building a stronger workforce, and we know that providing opportunities for young people to be exposed to career paths in agriculture is one tool in our toolkit for doing so. 

This is why we created the Growing Opportunities Student Wage Subsidy Program (SWSP). Growing Opportunities empowers employers to hire post-secondary students as part of the work-integrated learning components of their academic courses. The program also presents activities such as webinars, networking sessions, and business case competitions to engage students and post-secondary institutions with the industry and improve their job readiness. 

Employers see the benefits of hiring students

Over the years, we’ve heard from employers who have seen the benefits of Growing Opportunities, particularly about how it is showing promise in fueling industry worker growth. 

Kevin Smith, R&D and Sustainability Officer at Greig Seafood Newfoundland, is one example. 

“In rural areas with an aging population and workforce, [the program] is an opportunity to bring students into our industry who might not otherwise have us on their radar,” he explained. “It’s also a great way to let young people know this industry has room for them [and] that it’s highly technical, challenging, and sophisticated.”

Others, like Janet Delage, Vice President of Delage Farms, echoed Smith’s words about how important on-the-job learning is when fewer and fewer young people are growing up on farms. 

“When people understand what happens on a farm, it gives them practical knowledge of how food production works,” she said. “They can understand where a loaf of bread comes from and why it’s so important that we do what we do.” 

Students appreciate the chance to experience the wonders of agriculture

And Elise Saatchie, a student who participated in a Growing Opportunities placement at Maude Island Farm in British Columbia, is proof of how on-the-job learning is unmatched in its ability to engage young people. 

“At the end of the day I always felt stronger, more resilient, and so proud of what we had accomplished,” she said. “I saw firsthand how putting in the work to grow food organically and using regenerative methods pays off in the health of the soil and the biodiversity of the surrounding ecosystems. Living on the farm, I felt happier and healthier in my body and mind, and connected to the land in a way I had never experienced before.”

Let’s imagine what could be accomplished if more young people like Saatchie experienced the wonders of agriculture.

For more information

For more information on the Growing Opportunities Work Placement Program, see the CAHRC website or contact Megan Lockhart, AgriTalent Project Coordinator at mlockhart@cahrc-ccrha.ca.