A new study conducted by Food and Beverage Ontario has found that while Ontario’s food and beverage processing industry is seeking to ease its skilled trade shortage by increasing education, employment opportunities, and access to qualified foreign workers, manufacturers are faced with numerous barriers.
The report, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, found that the food and beverage processing industry is Ontario’s largest manufacturing sector by employment and the largest purchaser of Ontario farm products, but is projecting a shortfall of 25,000 employees by 2025.
Amid ongoing labour and supply crunches, more than eight in 10 (82 per cent) of Ontario’s food and beverage processors need, or are actively seeking to employ, a skilled trades professional. These positions include critical roles such as automation technicians, millwrights, electricians, and quality control technicians.
The report found that currently, it takes an average of seven months to hire for these roles, and a quarter of food and beverage manufacturers and processors say they have been waiting over a year to fill some skilled trades roles.
“The demand due to broad labour shortages has created both a loss in industry capacity and a cycle that draws existing resources to accommodate the shortage and labour turnover,” said Doug Alexander, vice-president, sustainability and government relations at Belmont Food Group, per Food In Canada. “The more skilled trades jobs we need to fill, and the longer it takes to fill them, the more pressure is placed on current employees to keep operations running. That can lead to burnout and food production constraints, while literally turning down orders.”
The report also identified that barriers to employment and potential solutions to address related short-term challenges include limited access to qualified foreign workers and insufficient investment in initiatives to leverage existing job opportunities and training and employment programs.