To help ensure grocery shelves continue to stay full during COVID-19 the Ontario government is launching a new web portal, connecting workers with employers looking to fill positions in the agri-food sector.
The tool will make it easier to match people to jobs and training resources throughout the provincial food supply chain, which has been called an essential service.
Why it matters: A lack of farm labour could lead to gaps in food production in Ontario.
“Right now, there are important jobs that need to be filled across the food supply chain and we are looking for individuals who embody the Ontario spirit to step up and provide an essential service,” said Ernie Hardeman, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The agri-food sector relies on hundreds of thousands of people to work in diverse jobs and the need for workers in these parts remains strong.
Ontario.ca/agfoodjobs provides access to information on job opportunities and training resources in all parts of Ontario’s food supply chain.
“Working in the agri-food sector is a great way to contribute to your community and join the thousands of hard-working men and women helping to feed the province during this unprecedented time,” said Hardeman. “Our food supply chain is one of the strongest in the world and our government wants to thank all of the people who work every day to ensure individuals and families can access healthy and nutritious Ontario-produced foods.”
Bill George, chair of Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association says this is a good initiative for the Ontario government but worries that Ontario workers lack the field work skills required for fruit and vegetable production.
“It’s good to put some people to work that are unemployed. No question there will be some success in connecting unemployed people with farmers, food processing or factories that require essential workers. But in the field work (fruit and vegetable growers) need a lot of skilled workers.”
Most of George’s offshore workers have been coming to his farm for nearly 25 years. The inherent knowledge his workers has is difficult to teach to temporary Canadian workers.
“I think a program like that can complement the offshore program. But the logistics to get people out to a farm and have them every day, and the reliability factor… growers need to know they have a work force on the farm, ready to go every morning.”
The real strength of the seasonal foreign worker program comes into play with the reliable source of labour every day, eight to 10 hours a day for six to seven days a week, says George.
“We are happy to see the foreign workers come in. If Canadians do want to come out to work, we do encourage that as well.”