Agriculture will have to recruit from new groups, say analysts

RED DEER — There are no easy solutions to the farm labour shortage, but matching current trends in underemployment may be a start, says a director with the Conference Board of Canada.

One of the biggest trends is a desire for part-time work, Michael Burt said during an agricultural labour summit.

“It may be a good match for agriculture with this interest in part-time work.”

Trying to match the growing number of retirees and the shrinking population of young people is a continuing challenge, he said.

Burt said agriculture should take a close look at hiring from the biggest groups of underused workers: young people, older people, women, the disabled and First Nations workers.

Cheryl Knight, an oil and gas recruitment strategist, said focusing on the underemployed and chronically unemployed has its challenges. The unemployed often have poor job search skills and often need assistance with medical, social and transportation issues.

The oil and gas industry has recognized that the underemployed need help with transportation and provide rides to and from job sites.

Also, don’t assume everyone knows about agriculture.

Knight said farmers should have a good website and describe in detail each job. The website should be linked to job boards and forums.

“People who are sporadically employed will need training. Just assume these people don’t know how to find you. As an employer, it’s up to you to make it easy.”

Knight said farmers should also take advantage of the cyclical nature of the oil patch and recruit newly laid off workers.

“With the oil patch, it is also goes through cycles,” she said.

“They’re moving into one of those cycles now. As they’re laid off, do they know what you have to offer?”

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