May 6, 2021 By Greenhouse Canada
Ottawa has announced an investment to fund 2,000 jobs for youth in the agriculture sector.
This investment amounts to $21.4 million to enhance the Youth Employment and Skills Program (YESP). Applications are now open.
“In a time of labour shortages, this enhancement will also allow many employers to fill vacant positions,” says Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
The YESP aims to support agri-food employers and provide young Canadians between the ages of 15 and 30 with job experience in agriculture that could lead to a career working in the sector.
The program offers support to employers who hire youth for agricultural jobs with up to 50 per cent of wages, to a maximum of $14,000. Indigenous applicants and employers who hire a youth facing barriers are eligible to receive up to 80 per cent of total eligible costs, up to a maximum of $14,000. YESP can also cover 100 per cent of costs for relocation, to a maximum of $5,000, if the youth must relocate for the position
Eligible applicants include producers, agri-businesses, industry associations, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous organizations and research facilities. Support can cover the period from April 15, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
During the virtual announcement held May 5, Ryan Kasko, General Manager, Kasko Cattle Co Ltd. in Alta. recounted how the program allowed them to hire two young women who did not have prior experience in agriculture. “We were impressed with their enthusiasm and willingness to learn…. So the program really is reinforced our belief that you do not need to grow up on a farm to work on a farm. And I want to thank Minister Bibeau, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for supporting this program.”
Kasko also says some of his most successful employees have come out of the blue. When their current farm manager first joined their farm, he had been attending university to become an actuary, but decided to switch gears and join their farm after graduation. “He’s got a lot of knowledge of technology around GPS and the use of drones and doing trials with different crops. He’s a great success story of someone that would be a non-traditional farm kid that had great success working on a farm.”
For Justin Williams, Chair of the Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum and a dairy farmer in Ont., he pointed out how “the urbanization of our society makes it increasingly rare for the Canadian to have any exposure to agriculture and food production, which has led to a decrease in those interested in becoming involved in our sector, or even being aware of it as an option.” In his view, YESP addresses two problems at once: helping farmers with costs and access to labour.
“It also helps youth facing difficulties in finding employment, while giving them hands-on exposure to agriculture,” Williams continues. “That exposure is crucial to making people aware of agriculture as a career option, and increasing the awareness of the realities of farming and food production.” With the average Canadian farmer being over 60 years old, it has becoming increasingly important to foster the next generation. “I can tell you that there is a great crop of young farmers all across Canada who are innovative, motivated and ready to take on the challenges of tomorrow. Programs like this will hopefully increase the numbers of young people motivated to become the next generation of Canadian agriculture.”
Young people were among the hardest and fastest hit when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, experiencing more job losses than any other age demographic. Meanwhile, the agriculture sector has been facing increased difficulty accessing labour since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I encourage all the farmers out there to give young people a chance, who may not have the exact kind of resume or background that you’d expect to be successful,” adds Kasko.
In 2020, Ottawa invested $9.2 million for the YESP, to fund nearly 1,000 jobs. This investment more than doubles last year’s allocation.
With files from: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
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