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Funding available to help attract, retain workers to agri-food industry

Province, feds launched Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative on Feb. 24

The provincial and federal governments are jointly investing $4 million to help attract new workers to Ontario’s agri-food industry.

On Feb. 24, the parties announced the Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative, which will launch a series of pilot projects to attract, support and retain workers to the food-processing sector.

Funding is being provided through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion investment by the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

According to the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), Canada’s agri-food workforce will be short 123,000 workers by 2029. Ontario is expected to represent the largest share of the shortfall.

Examples of pilot projects that could be eligible for funding include:

  • transportation initiatives for employees to commute to the job site;
  • childcare options while parents are at work;
  • language proficiency solutions for workers with English as a second language; or
  • improving workspace environments to help retain employees.

Under the program, pilot projects may be eligible for up to 70 per cent of approved expenses to a maximum of $80,000 for individual businesses or up to $200,000 for a collaboration between two or more businesses.

The funds will be available to pilot projects undertaken by food processing businesses with more than 100 employees.

Data from the pilot projects will be compiled into a report by the Agricultural Adaptation Council and shared with Ontario agri-food processors to help identify successful programs that may be utilized in their individual operations with the aim to address long-term labour challenges, the province noted.

Applications for the new cost-share intake will be accepted starting on March 3, 2022. Approved projects must be completed by Sept. 30, 2022.