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New Ontario college program on ag equipment to help fill labour gap

Students will learn skilled trades in high demand areas such as spraying and fertilizing operations, custom tillage and harvesting operations.


October 2, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

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More than $180,000 will go toward the development of a new college program that will provide education and training in the latest agricultural equipment. Photo courtesy of Jim Casson.

Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont. will launch a pilot program to expand the equipment training opportunities for current farm sector employees and better prepare students interested in careers in agriculture to work on farms.

Students will learn skilled trades in high demand areas such as spraying and fertilizing operations, custom tillage and harvesting operations. The project is one of several recently approved by the federal and provincial governments to help primary agriculture, food processing companies and food retailers to recruit and train workers who are critical in keeping the province’s food supply functioning.

The governments of Canada and Ontario will allocate more than $180,000 through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership for the development of the new program at Conestoga College that will provide education and training in the latest agricultural equipment.

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“Access to skilled labour is critical on farms and in processing facilities and this pilot program will help farmers meet their labour needs while allowing more Canadians to obtain meaningful and challenging employment in the agricultural and agri-food sector,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food in a released statement.

“We greatly appreciate the province’s investment in this important initiative,” said John Tibbits, president for Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. “As well as addressing critical workforce needs in Ontario’s agriculture and food sector, the Agriculture Equipment Operator training initiative will provide opportunities for local residents to develop in-demand skills, advance their careers and contribute to the success and well-being of the community.”

“Agriculture is by far the biggest single industry in Brant and Brantford,” said Will Bouma, MPP for Brantford-Brant. “To see the Governments of Ontario and Canada come together to support the development of a new college program to train in the latest agricultural equipment can only strengthen our goal of food self-sufficiency in Ontario.”

Through a targeted intake under the Partnership’s Place to Grow: Agri-Food Innovation Initiative, the governments have also recently committed up to $594,000 to projects to boost labour supply and training in the agri-food sector. In addition to the Conestoga College program, the governments have approved:

  • $396,000 for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture to develop a comprehensive support system for businesses in the agriculture and food sector to target communities affected by workforce shortages in the agri-food sector due to COVID-19, including a job matching and labour recruiting service;
  • $198,000 for Food and Beverage Ontario to develop and complete a six-month marketing campaign to build confidence with frontline food workers, support business continuity for Ontario’s food and beverage processing sector, and support the operational stability of Ontario’s food and beverage processing sector during COVID-19 challenges.

“Helping to meet the labour and training needs of our agri-food sector is a priority for this government,” said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “Our government is doing everything possible to ensure farmers both today and those in the future have the training and skills necessary to operate their farm operations effectively.”