December 28, 2020 By Fruit and Vegetable staff
Labour shortages in agriculture, unfortunately, are nothing new. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated the issue, organizations in Ontario are stepping up to offer solutions.
Early on during the COVID-19 crisis, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) identified that the inability to access labour was not an insurable risk under the provincial crop insurance program.
“Lack of labour was never something that was considered an insurable peril under [the AgriCorp] program and we have been successful at getting that coverage for farmers, so that is some relief,” said Cathy Lennon, general manager of the OFA.
In addition to securing the change in the crop insurance fine print, OFA also partnered with industry stakeholders to help bridge the gap and connect job seekers to the opportunities available across the agriculture value chain. The Feeding Your Future project includes a free job matching concierge service, nine virtual career fairs, a series of 10 webinars, and specialized training opportunities.
“We will be looking at how successful these are, and what kind of job matching capability came from these [virtual career fairs] and then reporting on that. Maybe this will even be a tool beyond COVID-19 because you can log on and talk directly with HR representatives from all these organizations,” Lennon said.
The ease, and to be determined success, of these virtual career fairs can help agriculture employers connect with potential employees outside of their typical recruiting methods.
“One of the things that I’ve learned throughout this process is that we’ve relied on farm kids, kids coming out of university ag programs and seasonal ag workers. We’ve kind of focused our efforts on the population and demographics that we know in terms of attracting those people to our industry longer term,” Lennon said.
“I think what something like this [pandemic] has allowed us to do is say, ‘Hey we’re looking for labourers or truck drivers or quality assurance people’ and it’s quite possible that if we look further than our immediate connections, maybe those people are out there and we can bring them into the agricultural community.
“And ideally, the important thing that we really want to focus on, is keep them here,” Lennon added.
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