Agrifood labour development strategy moving forward

Lots of issues have to be addressed.Ottawa—The release of an Agriculture Canada report on consultations on a national agriculture labour strategy combined with an update on an industry-led workforce framework initiative shows the vexatious issue is being thoroughly scrutinized.Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the feedback and ideas presented to her department will inform the actions to be taken in developing the Agricultural Labour Strategy. That task was assigned to her when she was appointed minister in 2019.“Engagement will continue throughout 2023, and on an ongoing basis after the Strategy is launched, to ensure the Strategy's efforts are responsive to the always evolving needs of the sector,” she said.Meanwhile the workforce framework initiative led by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council (CAHRC), the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and Food and Beverage Canada has released an interim report that was signed by 34 other industry organizations. Its views were well-reflected in the Agriculture Canada What We Heard Report.“We appreciate the commitment to collaborative and sustained engagement from the department and the minister that will ensure both strategies remain aligned on wanting to take complementary and collaborative action on short, medium and long-term solutions to address labour shortages and systemic workforce challenges,” the three partners said.They have been championing the development of an industry-led National Workforce Strategic Framework for Agriculture and Food & Beverage Manufacturing since 2021. “To date, there have been more than 100 industry participants involved in this work through advisory committees, working groups and broader engagement.” The groups' plan will seek to complement Agriculture Canada's work in developing a workforce strategy.Bibeau said, “Securing the workforce necessary for the needs of today and tomorrow is crucial to food security as well as growing our economy in a sustainable way, and that is why now is the time to act. The sector requires a reliable and sustainable agricultural workforce and innovative technological solutions for the labour challenges of today and the future.”The last couple of years has shown that chronic labour shortages hinder the productivity of agricultural and processing operations, resulting in lost economic potential and creating stress for employers and workers alike.It is important to find ways a skilled workforce that will keep Canada a top provider of agrifood products, she said. “The feedback received during our consultation process will be key to developing an action-oriented Agricultural Labour Strategy that addresses the issues hindering agricultural operations and limiting growth.”Her department received written submissions more than 68 individuals and industry groups and reviewed 218 completed online questionnaires.The main findings were:-Employers are unable to find the workers they need and are having difficulty attracting employees to the sector due to challenges such as rural location, type of work and wages;Inability to retain domestic and foreign workers over the long-term;Adopting more tailored approaches is required to attract and retain underrepresented and marginalized groups;Critical need for human capital and difficulty ensuring employees have the skills and access to training needed to transition agrifood to sustainability, technology and innovation;Need to facilitate the entry of the next generation of farmers into the sector;Employees desire a stronger workplace culture so they feel valued and more connected to their work;Lack of dedicated human resources capacity of small and medium sized enterprises;There are many risks associated with adopting automation and labour-saving technologies needed to reduce the sector's reliance on manual labour;The labour market information that exists is not consistent across sources, available in a timely manner, straightforward or easy to access.