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Action plan to attract youth to Ontario’s food, beverage industry released

November 11, 2014  By Press release

November 11, 2014, Guelph, Ont – Food and beverage processing businesses, educational institutions and government leaders are supporting development of an action plan to attract young people to careers in the agriculture and food sector, the fastest growing multi-million dollar sector of the province’s economy.

The anchor of the action plan is a just released joint report from the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph and Food and Beverage Ontario (FBO), Planning for Ontario’s Future Agri-Food Workforce: A Report on Agriculture and Food and Beverage Processing Training in Ontario Colleges and Universities. The report assessed the employment needs of the agriculture and food industry and found several employment areas experiencing a deficit of qualified individuals, with 59 per cent of employers surveyed for the Food Processing Human Resource Council’s 2011 Labour Market Information having trouble finding job candidates with proper training.

The report also found that the supply of graduates from post-secondary school programs is not meeting industry’s demand, with Planning for Tomorrow for OAC: Input from Industry, a report from JRG Consulting Group, showing that the agriculture and food industry’s demand for new hires straight out of university programs is expected to increase by 10 to 20 per cent over the next few years.

With the context of industry’s employment needs, the report reviewed existing post-secondary school programs and made three major recommendations, including promotion of the agriculture and food industry, increasing capacity and enrolment in post-secondary programs and development and implementation of new food post-secondary programs.

The need to attract the next generation of skilled workers to the agriculture and food industry was discussed extensively at a recent education roundtable of industry, government and post-secondary leaders.

“The roundtable brought together industry, government, colleges and universities from across the province, and this collaboration will help strengthen the future of Ontario’s agri-food workforce,” said Rob Gordon, dean of the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph.

“The education action plan will become a key part of our long term strategy to help the processing industry continue to be the major driver of the province’s economy,” said FBO chair Norm Beal. “An investment must be made in reaching the next generation workforce.”

FBO’s education action plan will drive a promotional campaign of the industry and related post-secondary programs to young people as they decide on their education and career paths, as well as collaboration between industry and academia as programs are developed and enhanced in the future.

Some of the challenges facing the industry include a shrinking workforce pool and misconceptions about the industry and its many diverse career opportunities.

“With the roundtable leaders working together and an action plan developed, there is an opportunity for the industry to grow to 185,000 jobs by 2020, an additional 60,000 over today’s numbers, and generate over $70 billion in sales,” said Steve Peters, FBO’s executive director.

For a copy of the report Planning for Ontario’s Future Agri-Food Workforce, please visit

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