July 24, 2020 By Stephanie Gordon
Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced that approximately 800 new positions are expected to be created through the Youth Employment and Skills Program for the 2020/2021 program year.
The enhanced program, which launched on May 26, 2020, is now fully subscribed and the application intake is closed. Eligible applicants included producers, agri-businesses, industry associations, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous organizations and research facilities.
In May, the federal government announced an additional funding of $9.2 million to help the agriculture industry attract Canadian youth, ages 15 to 30, to their organizations to assist with labour shortages brought on by the pandemic. The funding will provide agriculture employers up to 50 per cent of the cost of hiring a Canadian youth up to $14,000.
At that time, it was announced that the program would fund 700 youth jobs. This program provides youth from across the country, and particularly youth facing barriers to employment, with job experience in agriculture that will provide career-related work experience.
“Our food producers are working hard to feed Canada, and labour shortages brought on by the pandemic have had an impact. The applications received for this program demonstrate that youth are eager to take advantage of the many employment opportunities available in the agriculture and agri-food sector and to gain valuable work experience. I am pleased to see so many young Canadians interested in challenging and meaningful careers in one of our country’s most dynamic and resilient sectors,” said Minister Bibeau in a released statement.
Attracting youth to agriculture
At the time of the original funding announcement, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture welcomed the news tweeting that “Anything that helps mitigate the labour shortages confronting #cdnag is greatly appreciated.”
The Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council reported in 2019 that the agriculture sector’s job-vacancy rate was the “highest of any major sector in the Canadian economy.” In 2017, the agriculture sector was short 16,500 workers.
While labour shortages are constant in agriculture, the need for labour has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Agriculture employers face a host of unique hiring challenges such as large seasonal fluctuations in employment; hiring in low density, rural areas; negative perceptions about what agriculture work involves; and a competitive commodity market that limits the ability of employers to raise wages to attract workers.
The federal government’s program to entice more youth is among many similar programs across Canada that try to get more young adults interested in a career in agriculture.
For example, the P.E.I. provincial government doubled the bursary incentive offered by the PEI Farm Team to help Island farmers fill seasonal labour needs by connecting farmers with students in need of summer jobs. The provincial government doubled the bursary incentive to $1,000 for high school students returning to grades 11 or 12 in the fall of 2020, and $2,000 for students starting or returning to post-secondary education in the fall. In Nova Scotia, the 2020 Agriculture On-Farm Student Bursary also provided bursaries of up to $1,000 for eligible post-secondary students who work on registered Nova Scotia farms for the summer of 2020.
However, not all students jumped at the opportunity to work on farms. In Nova Scotia, Acadia University Students’ Union president made controversial comments to the effect that “summer farm jobs aren’t for university students.” The student reversed their statements after being invited to tour agricultural operations in the province and issued an apology as well.
However, despite this, programs to entice youth to careers in agriculture still help mitigate Canada’s agricultural industry’s labour shortage and promote careers in agriculture.
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