Opportunities ahead: growing the agri-workforce through education

March 18, 2024

Canada’s agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing workforce plays an important role in supporting the growth and prosperity of our economy. However, many Canadians are not aware of the significant job prospects in these sectors, largely because a substantial portion of the population has become farther removed from farms and rural parts of the country.

In the face of a significant labour shortage — Canada could face shortages of more than 100,000 agricultural workers by 2030 — post-secondary education can play a dual role in bridging the knowledge gap to showcase the opportunities that exist in agriculture, while also appropriately developing the up-and-coming stream of workers and businesses.

In a recent report conducted by CAHRC, work-integrated learning through post-secondary education was identified as a tool to grow the workforce and drive interest toward career paths in agriculture. Work-integrated learning is exactly what it sounds like: providing students or people early in their careers the chance to apply their classroom knowledge in their place of work. The most popular work-integrated learning opportunities for the agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors are co-ops and internships. Work-integrated learning opportunities also include apprenticeships, mandatory professional practice, field experience, and applied research projects.

To use work-integrated learning to create the most optimal outcomes in labour-force development, CAHRC has identified the following opportunities and related actions for consideration:

1)    Strategically develop work-integrated learning related to the agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors.
2)    Support more interdisciplinary approaches at post-secondary institutions for work-integrated learning opportunities related to agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing. 
3)    Improve access to experiential and work-integrated learning opportunities by increasing awareness of the benefits of working in the agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors.
4)    Improve data availability and collection to better share work-integrated learning and experiential learning opportunities related to both sectors and to assess program effectiveness.

Ultimately, there is an urgent need to address labour challenges in both the agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors. It is critical to enhance efforts to connect new workers to these industries through approaches such as work-integrated learning. Taking steps to capitalize on the identified opportunities would support a future that ensures the industry has workers equipped with the skills necessary to lead. 

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.