Communication and creativity are key to recruiting new Canadians.

Many of the new Canadians are arriving in Canada with agricultural backgrounds, as well as interest and experience in the industry. Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst

According to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), the labour shortage in the agriculture sector will double by the year 2025 – leaving nearly 114,000 vacant positions in the industry.

With Canada welcoming an average of approximately 235,000 new Canadians every year, members of the ag community are now looking to this growing demographic to help them fill positions.

Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director at the CAHRC, says that new Canadians looking for work is an opportunity for the ag industry to capitalize on.

“Given that the industry is really in need of filling position vacancies, it’s a great pool of potential talent to fill those positions,” she says. “Many of the new Canadians are arriving in Canada with agricultural backgrounds, as well as interest and experience in the industry. Sometimes, they even have agrology backgrounds and certifications that are very helpful.”

Breaking the Barriers

But like all things worth doing, hiring new Canadians may be easier said than done. MacDonald-Dewhirst says that the most challenging barriers are often location and transportation.

“Depending on where the business is and where the new Canadian lives, this can be a really big barrier to overcome,” she says. “Some businesses organize carpooling or transportation or they provide subsidies for transportation. There are different things that people and organizations have done to make this less of a barrier. It’s just about getting creative so you can get your workers to your place of work.”

Employers may also need to get creative with how they connect with potential employees who may be looking for work outside of traditional placement channels. New Canadians are often looking for job opportunities through their local settlement agencies. MacDonald-Dewhirst recommends that agri-retailers use these settlement agencies to effectively connect with new Canadians.

CAHRC and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society worked on a pilot project for nearly nine months last year to introduce new Canadians to the ag industry, resulting in 46 new Canadians in agriculture positions across the country.

“There are new Canadians coming in to the settlement agencies every day looking for work opportunities,” says MacDonald-Dewhirst. “When the employment agency knows about an industry and knows that industry is hiring or knows a particular company is looking for workers, it’s an advantage. Then, the agency worker can convey that to new Canadians who are coming in and who are looking for new positions.”

MacDonald-Dewhirst adds that other factors – like language – can be a barrier to successful employment.

But they don’t have to be.

“Businesses have to be careful about what their particular job requirements are and how they’re going to address whether somebody needs language proficiency or not,” she says. New Canadians have typically had to meet a level of language proficiency in either of Canada’s two official languages, and some businesses offer supplemental language training as well, she adds.

“But ensuring workers really understand the work and the safety elements is important,” she says, noting that a picture-based approach can help overcome potential language barriers.

Reaching out to settlement agencies is an effective way of connecting with new Canadians.

Bridging the Gap

Communication is key when it comes to recruiting new Canadians. Agri-retailers need to work with settlement agencies to clarify that their businesses – and the industry as a whole – are open for business and are actively looking to fill vacant positions.

“That’s where the disconnect has been in the past, and we have to take an active role in working with the agencies that serve this population,” says MacDonald-Dewhirst.

She encourages agri-retailers to get in touch with the immigrant-serving agencies in their jurisdiction, and to work with them so they understand the jobs that are available and the skills needed to fill them.

“Something that worked really well was encouraging tours of your operation,” she says. “If your operation is in a rural location, include a tour of the town. You’re not only asking someone to connect with you as a business owner – you’re also potentially asking them to relocate, and that means engaging them with the services of your local town.”

With a little creativity, communication and understanding, retailers and producers can successfully bridge the gap between the ag industry and this growing demographic of new Canadians.


Connect with settlement agencies in your area by visiting, www.cic.gc.ca/english/newcomers/map/services.asp

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