Food In Canada

Hire a student to bridge today’s skills gaps

It makes business sense to recruit students who are tomorrow’s leaders

November 18, 2021   by Jennefer Griffith

A snapshot of student enrollment from the Labour Market Institute. Images courtesy Food Processing Skills Canada

Over the summer, Food Processing Skills Canada (FPSC) announced the Student Work Placement Program+. The program has been designed specifically for businesses in the food and beverage manufacturing industry.

We wanted to make it easy for employers to post jobs and hire college and university students with specific skills over identified work terms. We also wanted to encourage employers to connect with individuals from historically underrepresented populations in our industry and simplify access to wage subsidies of up to $7,500 per placement.

Employment gap
The data available has made it perfectly clear the industry employment gap, both present and future, is severe. Our latest labour market report, At the Crossroad to Greatness, has shown the hiring requirement for the industry by 2025 will be up to 56,000 people or about 20 per cent of the current workforce. That’s a lot of people with a variety of skills sets. The food and beverage manufacturing sector is not alone. Other sectors are also struggling for labour, as is the entire Canadian food supply chain.

We believe engaging students at the post-secondary level is essential to addressing immediate employment gaps and future needs. The research we conducted last year showed that seven in 10 employers face recruitment and retention challenges with most describing the problem as persistent and ongoing. This is not a surprise when other analysis revealed that only one in four Canadians are familiar with the food and beverage processing industry and only one in six said they would apply for a job if it was located near them.
Fortunately, we also know that when individuals, particularly youth, have an opportunity to learn about industry jobs, perceptions can be positively shifted.

Program benefits
Hiring a student provides employers with immediate new skills and capacity, but also is an investment in the future. With the Student Work Placement Program+ we are offering substantial wage subsidies to ease cost as a possible barrier to entry for some businesses.

This program has made it easy for employers to create an online account at Campus Connect and access thousands of post-secondary students across hundreds of programs from bakery to food science and nutrition.

Students are eager with freshly learned skills, but need the opportunity to experience our industry and the career pathways available. It is not just students trained in food industry-related curriculum that are important. We need to connect with students in programs that are transferrable into our industry such as engineering, skilled trades, IT and finance. We have learned from talent attraction initiatives like Food and Beverage Ontario’s Taste Your Future that food and beverage manufacturing is often not top of mind with students in these areas of study.

Most will agree that there is not one quick fix to resolving the industry’s labour challenge. We need talent attraction, industry profiling, jobseeker-employer matching, targeted skills training and tools to develop exceptional workplace cultures. With each job vacancy costing the industry $190 per day over an average of six vacancies per business, the hit to industry is $8.5 million daily in lost revenue or about $3.1 billion every year.

When we hire a student for a work placement or a graduate for a full-time position we are systematically shifting perceptions of our industry and bringing new talent to our employment teams, and eventually, our leadership.

To learn more about the Student Work Placement Program or to hire a student visit www.swpp-fpsc.com.

Jennefer Griffith is an executive director at Food Processing Skills Canada.


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