Report: Over 47 per cent of farm employers cannot fill their labour needs
By Top Crop Manager
Canada’s agriculture producers continually face challenges related to securing an adequate workforce, according to The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council’s (CAHRC) newly released Labour Market Forecast to 2029 report.
The Labour Market Forecast to 2029 report helps understand factors that go into sourcing and training an adequate workforce in agriculture.
In a survey of farm employers, over 47 per cent of respondents said they cannot 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.
Unfortunately, most provinces and many commodities are affected by chronic labour shortages. In 2018 more than 16,400 positions went unfilled, costing the industry $2.9 billion in lost sales.
Considering that approximately 37 per cent of the workforce is expected to retire in the next ten years, the Labour Market Forecast indicates that there will be an increasing labour shortfall. Solutions to resolve worker shortages include focusing on untapped potential within Canada, as well as looking outside the domestic workforce.
Employers look to hire Canadians first and then recruit international workers when no Canadians can be found to work on their farms. International workers are a valuable source of labour for the Canadian agriculture sector. Jobs filled by international workers have increased to nearly 60,000 in 2017, from almost 45,600 jobs in 2014, representing one in every six positions in the Canadian AgriWorkforce.
Non-traditional sources of labour can help to ease labour market pressures. The agriculture industry can work to recruit people who have not been strongly connected to the sector to find a rewarding career. Underrepresented groups, such as young Canadians, women and Indigenous people, present tremendous opportunity for addressing workforce shortages, according to CAHRC’s analysis.
Immigrants are another diverse source of skills and knowledge. Although four per cent of today’s AgriWorkforce have come to Canada in the last five years, most new Canadians are less likely to choose a career in agriculture than in other sectors. CAHRC’s report states that encouraging communities and local governments to promote community activities, schools and recreational programs will help to alleviate concerns and encourage people to move to rural areas for agricultural employment.
The report concludes stating that changing negative perceptions surrounding living and working in rural areas, and promoting agriculture as a rewarding career will create long-lasting benefits for the sector. “There is a general lack of awareness about working in food producing industries. If business, education and government agencies are able to position agriculture as a viable and exciting career path for Canadians, the result will be more people interested in working in food production careers,” the report continues.
To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce.
CAHRC also offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.
The labour market forecast research was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide including: 1704 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders, and eight webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 170 participants in total. National data from the forecast can be found in the report Agriculture 2029: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future. The research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.