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The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing $4 million to continue building a strong and competitive agri-food workforce. The second round of the Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative closes on September 8, 2022, and provides funding for innovative pilot projects that are tailor-made to address employee needs at a local level.

“By working together through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, we’re ensuring Ontario has a skilled workforce to support its crucial food processing sector,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food Canada. “This investment in Agri-Careers helps Ontario’s food processors meet growing labour challenges while remaining competitive here and around the world.”

Eligible food processing businesses with 50 or more employees can apply for up to $80,000 in funding, or up to $200,000 for collaborations between two or more businesses, to cover up to 70 per cent of eligible project costs. Selected projects will aim to help the sector attract, support and retain the workers it needs to continue producing the safe and high-quality food made in Ontario, strengthen the local supply chain and promote greater food security.

“Our government recognizes that we need to continue making strategic investments that position Ontario’s agri-food sector for success both now and in the future,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “The innovative projects we are supporting through this program will make it easier for people to take advantage of meaningful and increasingly high-tech career opportunities available in food processing.”

Examples of pilot projects that could be eligible for funding include:

• transportation initiatives for employees to commute to the job site
• childcare options for working parents
• language proficiency solutions for workers with English as a second language
• improving workspace environments.

“We need all hands on deck to tackle the historic labour shortage in Ontario so that shelves are stocked, and families have food on their table,” said Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development. “That’s why our government is supporting the Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative, which will prepare job seekers for exciting careers in agri-food and spread opportunity to every corner of our province.”

The Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative builds on the first intake that was announced in February and follows an additional $1.5-million labour intake under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) that was announced last October. These initiatives, combined with the $22 million Agri-Tech Innovation cost-share program launched in April 2021, further enhance the province’s agri-food labour support to build a competitive and skilled agri-food workforce.

“As the province’s largest manufacturing sector by employment, programs like the Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative are vital to supporting the important work of the food and beverage processing sector,” said Chris Conway, CEO of Food and Beverage Ontario.

QUICK FACTS

▪ The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) estimates an agri-food workforce shortfall of 123,000 by 2029 in Canada. Ontario is expected to represent the largest share of the shortfall.

▪ The agri-food sector represents 10.2 per cent of Ontario’s labour force. In 2021, one in 10 jobs was related to the agri-food sector.

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