Door opened for foreign ag workers

Federal pilot project is intended to fill hundreds of job vacancies of all skill levels in the sector

The federal government has announced a three-year Agri-Food Immigration Pilot to open 2,750 spots per year for foreign agriculture workers.

The goal is to fill hundreds of job vacancies of all skill levels, Ahmed Hussen, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said July 11.

“We need to focus on meat processing and mushroom production as they face particular ongoing challenges,” said the minister.

“One of the ways to deal with that challenge is immigration to deal with labour market shortages in this industry.”

This program offers individuals a path toward permanent residency in Canada and potential citizenship.

The agriculture sector has struggled for more than a decade to find enough workers across many parts of the industry. Many accepted jobs in Canada as temporary foreign workers but the need is for permanent employees.

“There is nothing temporary about our need and our jobs,” said Marie-France MacKinnon of the Canadian Meat Council.

Labour market assessments show it is getting harder to find Canadian workers, especially in the meat sector, said Roger Cuznor, parliamentary secretary to minister of employment.

Temporary foreign workers may apply under this pilot in early 2020. Candidates must have full time, non seasonal Canadian work experience in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in the previous three years. They must achieve Canadian language benchmarks and demonstrate high school level equivalency or greater.

A maximum of 2,750 principal applicants, plus family members, will be accepted for processing in any given year. This represents about 16,500 possible new permanent residents over the duration of the pilot.

Employers in the agri-food sector who intend to be part of the pilot will be eligible for a two year labour market impact assessment.

Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council research shows agriculture has about 16,500 job vacancies, which probably account for $2.9 billion in lost sales to the economy.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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