Labour and skills gaps are costing Canada’s agriculture and food manufacturing industries billions each year
April 8, 2022 (OTTAWA) – The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), together with partners the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and Food and Beverage Canada (FBC-ABC) have announced the launch of the National Workforce Strategic Plan for Agriculture and Food and Beverage Manufacturing.
With details to be presented during a virtual event this afternoon to over two hundred representatives from industry associations, employers, not-for-profits, academia, as well as federal, provincial, and municipal governments, the Strategic Plan is the launching point for what will be a comprehensive roadmap to workforce stability for the agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors.
“Workforce issues in primary agriculture and food manufacturing are critical and need to be addressed urgently,” said Jennifer Wright, Acting Executive Director at CAHRC. “While good work is being undertaken by many groups, industry also recognizes the gravity of the challenge, the need for new and different ways of doing things and most importantly the need for collaborative action.”
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, this industry-led initiative complements the work identified in the Prime Minister’s Mandate Letters to Ministers Marie-Claude Bibeau and Carla Qualtrough tasking them with developing an Agricultural Labour Strategy for farming and food processing. Developed around five key pillars, the Strategic Plan is comprehensive, actionable and broad, as well as capable of adapting to changing times and realities. It includes short, medium and long-term solutions to address both immediate labour shortages and systemic workforce challenges.
“We knew prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that our labour supply was insufficient to meet the demands of our industry,” continued Ms. Wright. “The vision for this Roadmap is a reliable workforce with the skills needed to weather future crises and bring us towards a strong future.”
According to FBC-ABC, food and beverage manufacturers are short an average of 25 per cent of their workforce, according to recent Public Safety Canada data. Labour has repeatedly been identified as a key issue preventing the sector from realizing its growth potential.
“Food and beverage manufacturing is one of Canada’s most important sectors, and Canada’s largest manufacturing employer, contributing to Canada’s provincial, regional and national economies, supporting our international trade goals, and underpinning local food production and food supply,” said Kathleen Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer at FBC-ABC.
Similarly, employers in primary agriculture suffered earning losses of $2.9B in total sales in 2020, directly attributable to unfilled vacancies tied to the pandemic. This is nearly double the $1.5B in lost sales recorded in 2014.
“This is not just about lost sales and constrained future growth for Canadian producers”, added Mary Robinson, President of the CFA. “A strong agriculture sector is the foundation of Canada’s agri-food system and contributes to thriving communities in regions across Canada, offering good quality, secure jobs requiring an ever-expanding set of skills.”
“The agricultural and food processing sectors are undergoing a huge transformation that will affect all of us, and it is crucial to prepare the workforce with the skills necessary to meet future needs,” says Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre. “Developing a national strategy to look at upskilling workers and future workforce needs is vital to ensure the strength of these industries. This project will provide vital labour market research to address these challenges, and it is a great example of the projects FSC is investing in to identify new and better practices for the workforce of the future.”
About the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council works with industry leaders, governments and educational stakeholders to research, develop and communicate solutions to the challenges in employment and skills development in primary agriculture.
About the Canadian Federation of Agriculture
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) was formed in 1935 as a unified voice to speak on behalf of Canadian farmers. CFA’s work continues today as a farmer-funded, national umbrella organization comprising of provincial general farm organizations and national and interprovincial commodity groups, representing producers of all commodities, who operate farms of all sizes. Through its members CFA represents approximately 200,000 Canadian farm families from coast to coast to coast. CFA promotes the interests of Canadian agriculture producers to ensure the continued development of a trusted, sustainable, and vibrant agriculture sector in Canada. For more information visit www.cfa-fca.ca.
About Food and Beverage Canada
Food and Beverage Canada (FBC-ABC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s domestic food and beverage manufacturers. Its members include Canada’s provincial and regional food and beverage manufacturing associations as well as leading Canadian food and beverage companies. FBC-ABC advances a competitive business environment that enables growth and sustainability through knowledge sharing, consultation, business-led solutions and proactive advocacy. Across Canada there are almost 8,000 food and beverage manufacturing establishments employing almost 300,000 workers. For more information visit www.fbc-abc.com.