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Food and ag industry rally to fill employment gaps

  • 2.5 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world out of balance, including Canadian agribusiness, agri-food and agriculture.

New health and safety restrictions have impeded the travel of temporary foreign workers and thousands of Canadians, including foodservice staff, are laid off as self-isolation laws keep diners at home. 

This has supply chains scrambling to figure out a new normal, but the industry is coming up with new ways to fill employment gaps.

Temporary foreign workers

The delay in getting temporary foreign workers on the job could hurt fruit and vegetable production this year. 

Many agribusinesses, agri-food and farms traditionally rely on temporary foreign workers to fill employment gaps. However, this year, they’ll be held-up by border restrictions and grounded flights. Then, after arrival, they must isolate for 14-days to ensure they’re free of the virus. The federal government recently released a document outlining the responsibilities of employers bringing temporary foreign workers to Canada.

Job matching options

Job-matching websites, connecting unemployed food service workers with agribusiness, agri-food and agriculture, are increasing across the country.

Several provinces have created job-matching websites, where job seekers can connect with food processing and agri-food businesses looking for extra help. These sites also apply to farmers seeking workers.

Nationally, employers can post available positions on Job Bank Canada, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources AgriJobs, Careers In Food and The sites are searchable by province, making local options easier to find.

Ontario has created a jobs in agriculture and food website that matches employers with job seekers with options for frontline workers at grocery stores to industry organizations like the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers.

In Quebec, food processors and workers can access (French only) designed for the agri-business sector. Agricarrieres (French only) also matches up Agriculture workers and employers.

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has a job board, and in New Brunswick, the industry took the lead and created Food Works Atlantic.

Training and best practices

Bringing in new employees requires a period of transition and training. The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council provides an extensive library of resources. As well, the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association offers free, online safety courses targeted at workers unfamiliar with agriculture and the risks and hazards associated with farming.

Food and Consumer Products Canada is also sharing newly-developed best practices with federal and provincial authorities managing the COVID-19 response, as well as with businesses and associations throughout the agriculture, food, and consumer goods manufacturing industries.

Bottom line

In the changing world of agri-business, agri-food and agriculture, workforce dynamics are also shifting. Many Canadians are now left unemployed, and new COVID-19 restrictions are delaying the 60,000 temporary foreign workers traditionally employed by Canadian agriculture. National and provincial job-matching websites, online training, best-practice guidelines and HR resources are now available to help ease the pressure. These are just a few ways the industry is rallying hard to get people working and create a new normal.