Farm Credit Canada (FCC) urges the agriculture sector to focus on a labour strategy.
In a competitive labour market, producers and agribusiness owners need a strong employee recruitment and retention plan for permanent or seasonal workers, according to Jean Philippe Gervais, FCC’s Chief Agricultural Economist.
"Labour has become a strategic asset on the farm. In today's industry, if you lose your workers, it could be a significant blow to your business," Gervais says. “An aging population, continued urbanization and immigration trends impact the pool of available workers and the ability to find good farm labour.”
The demand for farm labour is strong due to growth in Canadian agriculture production, which has generally led to higher farm wages. Wages for full-time agriculture workers increased 22 per cent over the past five years, compared to an average 15 per cent wage increase across the entire economy, according to Statistics Canada. On the other hand, the agriculture sector still struggles to compete with resource-based industries, such as oil, gas and mining, which often offer higher wages for skilled and unskilled labour. As a result, primary producers who operate alongside these industries really have to expand their recruitment strategies, says Gervais.
Strategies should be adapted to regional Canadian unemployment trends, as well as demographic shifts. For example, unemployment is very low in Alberta and Saskatchewan, so employers might need to look beyond provincial borders.
There are also segments of Canada’s population that are under employed, but demographically represent the future workforce. In Saskatchewan, for example, Aboriginal people represent the youngest and fastest-growing segment of the province’s population.
“Recruiting has to be ongoing,” says Michelle Painchaud, President and CEO of Painchaud Performance Management Group (PPG), which has offered recruitment advice through FCC workshops. “It’s not something that starts when the need arises and it shouldn’t discount people who don’t come from a farm.” Painchaud offers the following tips on how to attract and retain farm labour:
• Sponsor a “day on our farm” to attract potential employees;
• Use social media, free on-line job boards or professional web sites, such as LinkedIn;
• Post videos showing your team at work, celebrating their success and accomplishments;
• Consider recruiting summer students from agriculture programs or trade schools;
• Use firms that specialize in overseas agriculture recruitment.
“People looking for work now want the ‘why’ – why would someone want to work for that farmer or agriculture business? What is the value proposition the company is providing employees?” Painchaud says. “This requires strategic branding to make people aware of the farm business, the value proposition and clearly answers ‘why’ would I want to work there?’”
Lyndon Carlson, FCC’s Sr. Vice President of Marketing, says people in the agriculture community can contribute to recruiting farm labour by speaking positively about the industry and the many job opportunities that are available. Many have already done so by posting their stories and testimonials on the Agriculture More Than Ever website at www.agriculturemorethanever.ca – part of a multi-year industry initiative to improve perceptions of agriculture in Canada.
“We need more people excited and motivated to join our industry,” Carlson says. “There are good jobs in agriculture. We need positive messages that encourage youth to choose agriculture and pursue post-secondary educations in this field, as well as attract and retain skilled labour to the industry.”
“By speaking positively about the industry, producers can help improve their chance of recruiting and retaining good employees,” Carlson adds.
FCC also offers free learning events throughout the fall and winter, including seminars on how to hire and retain employees. For more information on upcoming events, visit the FCC Learning Centre at www.fcc-fac.ca/learning.