Four jobs for every ag grad: university

It’s a great time to be an agriculture student.

Maybe the best time ever.

Students at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College should have no trouble finding a job because there are four jobs in Ontario for every OAC graduate.

“It’s great news for students entering and coming out of the programs because of the tremendous demand for their skills,” said Rene Van Acker, OAC dean. “On the other side, it remains a challenge for us at the university to help the sector find the people they need to grow.”

A study, funded by OAC, found that businesses in Ontario’s agri-food sector are desperate for qualified employees. A survey of firms determined:

•    Fifty-one percent of employers in the food indsutry and 67 percent in agriculture said they have difficulties finding recruits.

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•    Fifty percent of food enterprises and 57 percent of ag employers said more than half of their positions require post secondary education.

•    Forty-four percent of food industry employers and 56 percent of ag employers said they expect to increase their number of new hires in the next five years

The Ontario findings aren’t surprising because hundreds of businesses in Canada’s agri-food trade are struggling to find low and high skilled workers.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council has said that there is a large gap between the number of Canadians willing and available to work in agriculture than the number of available jobs.

In 2014 the gap was 59,200.

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It could grow to 113,800 people in 2025,because a large swatch of older workers will soon retire.

Temporary foreign workers are now and will continue to fill part of the gap, but many vacancies remain.

In 2014 CAHRC estimated that 26,400 jobs in agriculture went unfilled.

The human resource council has proposed a number of solutions to the shortage, such as improving access to foreign workers, altering training to meet employer needs and increasing awareness of opportunities in agriculture, particularly making urban students and young adults aware of the career opportunities.

“You don’t have to grow up on a farm to work in agriculture,” Van Acker said. “There are all sorts of careers in the sector, and with many of them you can work in urban centres and live an urban lifestyle.”

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Contact robert.arnason@producer.com