National Newswatch

Program intends to bring more young Canadians into food production.

 

Ottawa—The federal government will provide $9.2 million to a federal youth employment program to fund up to 700 new positions in the farm sector, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has announced.

The money will go to the Youth Employment and Skills Program (YESP) at the Employment Department to assist the agriculture industry in attracting men and women under 30 to their organizations to assist with labour shortages brought on by the pandemic, she said. This program aims to provide youth, and particularly youth facing barriers to employment, with job experience in agriculture that will provide career-related work experience.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture said any initiative to help mitigate the farm labour shortages, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19, “is greatly appreciated. We will be reviewing the program in more detail and communicating this new opportunity to our members to ensure it helps secure additional access to much-needed labour. At the same time, we continue to stress the importance of access to PPE (personal protective equipment), financial incentives to help recruit Canadians, and the continued arrival of agricultural temporary foreign workers.”

Robyn McKee, Manager of Policy Research and Development for the Canadian Horticultural Council, said, A shortage of workers on many fruit and vegetable farms remains a concern for our sector. So any support from the government in bringing workers in is appreciated, but must be considered in the context of other programs and benefits.”

The Council is waiting for information from Agriculture Canada “on whether a youth hired through this program would still be able to keep the $1,250 provided to them through the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. If they are not able to keep the benefit, or it will be clawed back, we worry that it would disincentivize students from working on farms.”

Jennifer Wright, senior human resources advisor with the Canadian Agriculture Human Resources Council said, “It is indeed welcome news to see this initiative launched. The agriculture industry is full of opportunities. Having an initiative that can help support attracting youth to the industry is great.”

The YESP will provide agriculture employers up to 50 per cent of the cost of hiring a Canadian youth up to $14,000. Indigenous applicants and those applicants hiring a youth facing barriers are eligible for funding of up to 80 per cent of their costs. Eligible applicants include producers, agri-businesses, industry associations, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous organizations and research facilities. Employers may apply for this funding retroactive to April 1, 2020, with projects to be completed by March 31, 2021.

Application forms are available through the Youth Employment and Skills Program. To get more information, email aafc.yesp-pecj.aac@canada.ca or call: 1-866-452-5558.

Bibeau said, “During this unprecedented time, our food producers are working hard to feed Canada, while adjusting their businesses to new challenges, such as a shortage of workers. This program will help agrifood businesses meet their labour needs with support for up to 700 workers, while allowing more young people in Canada to explore the limitless potential this industry has to offer.”

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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