Pilot project aims to find ag jobs for workers of all abilities

Program designed to help disabled workers find employment in a sector where they are often overlooked

A pilot project is matching people underrepresented in agricultural sectors with farmers and agribusiness operators needing workers.

Kim Kennett of the Saskatchewan Abilities Council’s Partners in Employment said the project targets the disabled but also identifies others who experience barriers to obtaining work, including immigrants and aboriginals.

“The goal is to provide individuals with varying abilities the opportunity to work in the ag sector and strengthen the ag sector’s ability to employ people with varying abilities,” said Kennett, who is the council’s agricultural employment co-ordinator.

Kennett said these workers are often challenged by jobs requiring a Class A1 licence, mechanical skills or expertise with operating equipment.

The project, which started March 1 and will wrap up Oct. 31, was funded through the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council. It sought at least four weeks of work placements, with a goal of long-term employment.

Of the six individuals placed to date, three worked as labourers on ranches and a fruit farm. The others assembled packages for Agriculture in the Classroom, bagged and sorted pulses at the University of Saskatchewan and tended plants at a greenhouse operation.

The future of such initiatives will be part of discussions at Breaking the Barriers to Employing Underrepresented Groups in Agriculture, a Sept. 28 forum in Saskatoon.

Kennett said these sessions will bring together food processors, farm associations, farmers and agribusiness to address the future of agriculture in light of larger farms and a declining workforce in rural areas.

“It will look at the potential of underrepresented people in agriculture and how to look at it in a different way,” she said.

“How do we get there and what supports do you need as a farmer to get there.”

That could include support for hiring and interviewing skills, performance reviews, on the job training and employer-employee relationships.

Roundtable discussion will look at the potential for employing people from underrepresented groups and rethinking the farm business to make employing these workers possible.

For more information, contact kkennett@abilitiescouncil.sk.ca or 306-657-2450.

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