Ontario government creates online job portal to fill positions in agri-food sector
The web portal provides access to information on job opportunities and training resources in all parts of Ontario's food supply chain.
By Stephanie Gordon
The Ontario government launched a new web portal to connect workers with employers looking to fill positions in the agri-food sector. The new online tool will match people to essential jobs and training resources throughout the provincial food supply chain and ensure that these essential jobs remain filled during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Right now, there are important jobs that need to be filled across the food supply chain and we are looking for individuals who embody the Ontario spirit to step up and provide an essential service,” said Ernie Hardeman, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “From farm to fork, it’s these dedicated heroes in the agri-food sector who are working through this difficult period each and every day to keep food on our kitchen tables.”
The web portal, accessible through Ontario.ca/AgFoodJobs, provides access to information on job opportunities and training resources in all parts of Ontario’s food supply chain – from grocery retailers to bakeries and cheese processing plants to opportunities on farms.
Ontario’s agriculture and food industry relies on hundreds of thousands of people to work in diverse jobs from farming and food processing to transport and food retail. In 2018, Ontario’s agri-food industry employed more than 837,000 people, representing 11.6 per cent of the province’s labour force and contributed $47.7 billion in GDP to the provincial economy (6.6 per cent of total Ontario GDP).
“Working in the agri-food sector is a great way to contribute to your community and join the thousands of hard-working men and women helping to feed the province during this unprecedented time,” said Minister Hardeman. “Our food supply chain is one of the strongest in the world and our government wants to thank all of the people who work everyday to ensure individuals and families can access healthy and nutritious Ontario-produced foods.”
Agriculture labour landscape: can the online portal help?
Despite the job opportunities within agriculture and the food supply chain, many agricultural producers have traditionally found it difficult to fill their labour needs.
According to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council (CAHRC)’s Labour Market Forecast to 2029, in a survey of farm employers, over 47 per cent of respondents said they could not fill their labour needs. Across the sector over one in three responded that they receive zero Canadian applicants when they post an available job.
On the processing side, results from a 2019 labour market information study by Food Processing Skills Canada (FPSC) identifies the gap in employment for the food and beverage manufacturing sector between 2018 and 2025. The report reveals that labour shortages are having critical impacts of lost sales for food and beverage businesses, and if it continues, the food processing industry will not keep pace with the growth created by Canada’s food supply chain.
The difference this time around is that there is a global pandemic shifting the labour landscape. According to a recent Angus Reid survey, 44 per cent of Canadian households say they’ve lost work or have seen layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the reported job losses have been concentrated in younger Canadians. The survey revealed that Canadians aged 18 to 24 made up 45 per cent of the total number of those who lost work or jobs, followed by those between the ages of 24 and 34 at 30 per cent.
The influx of young labour to the market can find opportunities within Ontario’s agri-food sector. The CAHRC stated in its forecast that non-traditional sources of labour – such as young Canadians – can help fill workforce shortages in agriculture. They stated that the “agriculture industry can work to recruit people who have not been strongly connected to the sector to find a rewarding career,” adding that underrepresented groups, such as young Canadians, women and Indigenous people, present tremendous opportunity for the sector.
With uncertainty and delays surrounding temporary foreign workers and seasonal agricultural workers coming to Canada, Ontario’s web portal is coming at a good time. International workers are a valuable source of labour for the Canadian agriculture sector when there isn’t local labour to fill roles. Jobs filled by international workers have increased from almost 45,600 jobs in 2014 to nearly 60,000 in 2017, representing one in every six positions in the Canadian AgriWorkforce, according to the CAHRC. However, their arrivals to Canada have been delayed because of border closures, limited travel options, and a number of moving parts related to health protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Ontario producers can turn to the government’s new online job portal to fill labour gaps amid increased demand, workflow interruptions and labour delays.