Jennefer Griffith, executive director at Food Processing Skills Canada, notes in our latest issue that the food and beverage manufacturing industry in Atlantic Canada is different from other regions in the country. “There, food and beverage manufacturing businesses are the number one manufacturing sector employer, which is similar across Canada, but the employment level is twice as high as it is in other provinces. This means the labour shortage for the Canadian industry, which we calculate will reach between 35,000 and 56,000 jobs by 2025, is even more serious in Atlantic Canada. When we add demographic changes and existing labour market tightness — especially in seafood processing — to the mix, it’s clear that the region is up against some tough challenges.
“We have a strong sense of community and loyalty to our regional food industry and there are big opportunities in national and export markets, but we need a skilled workforce to capitalize on innovation and growth,” says Tammy Brideau, executive director of Food & Beverage Atlantic. “Demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning and workplace culture also raises the sector’s profile as a great place for employment.”
Earlier this year, Food Processing Skills Canada published a report of labour market insights from an online and telephone survey of 740 food and beverage manufacturers across Canada. The analysis showed that challenges associated with the availability of labour are most pronounced in the seafood industry — 85 per cent vs. 60 per cent across other sectors. And of all Canadian manufacturers surveyed, 70 per cent are experiencing at least some challenges recruiting and/or retaining qualified workers. When asked about recruitment strategies, seafood processors use job banks almost twice as much as other Canadian employers and take the lead in recruiting youth under 30, at 77 per cent vs. 58 per cent across all other sectors.
We can read into the data that Atlantic Canada manufacturers are trying to reverse labour trends but need support in building a skilled workforce. With partners in the region, Food Processing Skills Canada launched Skills Training Atlantic Canada (STAC) to provide self-paced, online technical skills and social-emotional learning. The latter, we have learned, is especially important in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic stressors. The program has three streams — New Hires & Seasonal Workers, Frontline Workers and Supervisors. The employer response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The program will also give the industry important feedback on the effectiveness of the Learning & Recognition Framework in guiding competency-based training. This framework will play a central role in professionalizing the industry and underpinning certifications and accreditation.
STAC is showing us that regional programs, delivered on the ground with local networks, can rapidly support businesses and provide job opportunities.
For more information on Food Processing Skills Canada’s Skills Training Atlantic Canada program contact Deborah McGowan, Project Manager 902-616-2317 or visit www.stac-fpsc.com
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