The Agricultural Youth Green Jobs Initiative provides opportunities for agri-retailers by funding internships.

Applications are now being accepted for the Agricultural Youth Green Jobs Initiative, and agri-retailers can receive up to a maximum of $16,000 per intern through the program’s Green Internships Stream.

“It’s a low-risk way to hire a person,” says Chris Ruschkowski, regional manager with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. “Half their salary is paid for, so it’s really beneficial for an employer looking to take on another staff person.”

Introduced in 2016, the initiative was part of the federal government’s plan to create 50,000 “green jobs,” and falls under the larger Youth Employment Strategy. To be eligible for the program, interns must be under 30-years-old and a university, college or trade school graduate.

“The employer and the industry benefit from the project they work on that reduces the environmental footprint,” says Ruschkowski. “The benefit to the intern is they get some experience and, of course, they can move on to a successful job afterward.”

Everybody Wins

For Denis Vermette, owner of Farm Smart Corporation, a Manitoba-based company that provides agronomy services to growers, participating in the program has filled a gap that is often caused by the seasonal nature of agriculture.

“Even though there’s work all year round, it’s challenging to keep full-time employees on-board in such a seasonal business,” says Vermette. “The program really helps to fill that gap. It enables us to employ an intern full-time, year-round, so their training is accelerated. It benefits both the intern and my company.”

The initiative’s sustainable focus was what initially appealed to Vermette, as it closely aligned with his own business objectives.

“Our goal is to help producers cut back how many inputs they use, while maintaining the level of production and profitability they’re after,” says Vermette. “The growers always want to minimize cost, so that helps us promote the environmental benefit of the services we provide.”

Profit and Sustainability

To meet the environmental mandate of the program, Vermette’s intern is being trained to work with customers to improve sustainability in all aspects their soil fertility management.

“Trying to make the marriage between profitability of agriculture and environmental sustainability is something that Farm Smart strives for when we train our employees. The program attracted me because it has that very goal in mind – promoting the environmental sustainability of agriculture,” Vermette says.

Creating agriculture jobs for youth was also a driving factor in Vermette’s decision to apply. Heiland graduated with a diploma in agribusiness from Assiniboine Community College and is training to be an agronomist.

“It’s a great incentive to involve the younger generation in the agriculture industry, and at the same time educating them and providing practical experience with the environmental aspect of it,” he says.

Internships are typically one year in length, although the program can be tailored for projects with a shorter time-frame. Vermette calls the program a “perfect fit” for his company, and hopes Heiland will become a permanent employee at the end of her 12-month term.

“That’s definitely one of the major benefits of the initiative – both the intern and the employer get to feel each other out,” says Ruschkowski. “The employer can decide to hire the intern permanently or say, ‘Well, that was a good short-term project,’ and there’s no obligation to hire them permanently.”

Applying for the Program

For any retailers wondering if they should apply for the initiative, Vermette asks, “Why would you not apply?”

“From an environmental standpoint, it’s just great all-around,” he continues. “Based on my experience so far, I would highly recommend it.”

Ruschkowski encourages businesses to get their applications in quickly. The application period opened on January 15, and while he estimates funding will be available for a couple of months, he stresses that it will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. He urges retailers not miss out on the chance to make a positive impact on the environment, youth employment in agriculture and, ultimately, their business.

To apply, retailers must have a sustainable project or initiative in mind and meet the program criteria. Once their application is accepted, retailers hire their intern, “Just like you would hire any other employee,” says Ruschkowski.

He adds that there is some flexibility and while there must be a significant sustainable component to the project, it doesn’t have to take up the entirety of the internship. He says retailers should consider how they can make the internships work to achieve their business objectives.

“Look at how you’re servicing your customers and reducing the environmental footprint by providing a green product or service,” says Ruschkowski. “If you’re doing that, then consider applying to give a new graduate an opportunity to enter the workforce.”

Green Internships Stream Criteria

To be eligible for the Green Internships Stream, internships must:

  • be long enough to provide meaningful internship and last up to 12 months;
  • give employees agriculture-related experience in Canada; and
  • offer projects that include a significant amount of activities that help the environment.

You may be eligible if your organization:

  • is a legal entity capable of entering into legally binding agreements;
  • is engaged in agricultural activities; and
  • can help employees gain new skills through mentoring and coaching.

Interns must be:

  • Canadian post-secondary graduates;
  • Canadian citizens or permanent residents; and
  • 30 years or younger when they start the internship.

Note: Interns must not have been previously employed full-time by the applicant, and must not have participated in any other Youth Employment Strategy programs.
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Apply for the Green Internships Stream today!

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