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Labour reports cite urgent need for agile workforce development in Canada’s food and beverage industry

A Food Processing Skills Canada report suggests that the Canadian food and beverage industry will need 142,000 new people, or almost 50 per cent of the current workforce, between 2023 and 2030.

“In total, the Canadian food and beverage manufacturing industry will need 142,000 new people or almost 50 per cent of the current workforce, between 2023 and 2030,” said Jennefer Griffith, executive director at Food Processing Skills Canada.

Previous research done by Food Processing Skills Canada in 2020 showed that a single unfilled position in the food and beverage manufacturing industry costs businesses as much as $190 per day in lost net revenue. Losses from job vacancies could total up to $9.9 million in net revenue per day, or $3.6 billion per year, with over 8,800 food and beverage manufacturing industry employers across Canada.

In 2022, the food and beverage industry employed approximately 300,000 people; by 2030, that number is expected to grow to 325,000, an increase of nine per cent. However, concerns about replacing a retired workforce loom.

While 25,000 workers are needed over the next seven years, over 65,000 members of the current workforce will retire over that same period. The report says this is in addition to the existing 50,000 vacancies the industry is experiencing.

The recent labour market analysis also predicted that labour productivity will rise by 2.7 per cent between now and 2030 across all sectors, a decrease from past years.

The report cites the breweries subsector, which has 300 more employer establishments today than five years ago. Beverage manufacturing is also the sector with the highest demand for new people, both in terms of numbers and percentage, with the industry requiring 19,000 new people by 2030, or 38.5 per cent of their current workforce.

While the beverage sector has suffered some, the meat and poultry sector is reportedly more stable. The hiring projection accounts for 25 per cent of the current workforce. However, the seafood processing sector has the oldest workforce and the highest percentage of demand to replace retiring workers, with 28 per cent of its current workforce expected to retire by 2030.

Food Processing Skills Canada is calling for workforce development to fill the labour gap. It’s looking toward immigrants as the main driver of growth.

“Canada’s food and beverage manufacturing industry is a global leader in safe food production. It is time for us to also be a global leader in workforce development. We have the research capabilities, the resources, and the leadership to implement solutions and be the very best,” said Jeff Purcell, vice president of operations at Champlain Seafood and board director at Food Processing Skills Canada.

Read the report here.

Companies adapting to changing trends

Nestle Canada factory at 72 Sterling Rd. in Toronto. Nestle Canada photo

A recent survey from Nestle Canada suggests that of over 1,100 Canadian professionals between 20 and 35, an overwhelming majority (93 per cent) want to work for an agile organization, defined as a company that supports quick and flexible decision making. It also shows that when trusted at work, Gen Z and millennials feel better about their jobs.

“Gen Z and Millennials are reshaping workplace norms, compelling leaders to adjust to workplace cultural shifts,” said John Carmichael, president & CEO of Nestlé Canada. “At Nestlé Canada, our commitment to continuous learning and growth fuels us to adapt and respond to the ever-evolving demands of today’s diverse workforce. This requires going beyond our organization, actively exploring external viewpoints, and applying these meaningful insights to shape our culture at Nestlé.”

At least 96 per cent of those who responded said the best organizations to work for are those that reward courage and allow employees to share new and bold ideas. Respondents also said they believe only 55 per cent of companies embrace agile principles.

Among the professionals contemplating leaving their current positions, over three quarters (77 per cent) say their employer needs to be more agile. Similarly, 78 per cent of those say their current workplace falls short in promoting courage, and 72 per cent say they need to be given a level of trust.

“…The need for agility and courageous action is greater than ever. These attributes aren’t just aspirations for employees; they’re what they expect from their employers and the culture they want to immerse themselves in. Leaders must invest and proactively shape the culture within their companies, or they will not be able to attract and retain the top talent of today and tomorrow,” said Carmichael. “The results of our surveys affirm that our approach — founded on agility, courage, and trust — resonates with our employees and aligns with the evolving expectations of Gen Z and Millennials who seek empowering and inclusive workplace cultures.”

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