Planning for Tomorrow Study

Ontario’s agriculture and food industry is booming, with more job openings than qualified people to fill them, according to a report commissioned by OAC. The report provides a snapshot of hiring trends and demands in agriculture and food, based on a survey of more than 100 agri-food organizations in Ontario conducted by JRG Consulting Group. The survey included 25 food processing firms and 77 organizations representing the agricultural sector in Ontario. The survey was conducted in late 2011 and released in early 2012.

Ontario has the most diverse agri-food industry in Canada — producing more than 200 commodities — and the nation’s largest food processing industry, with more than 3,000 companies. The survey examined employer demand for college and university graduates — diploma, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral — for such positions as sales and marketing, production, and financial analysis and research.

The study found that industry demand far exceeded the supply of post-secondary graduates in agri-food in Ontario. Survey respondents expected a 10- to 20-per-cent increase in the number of new hires directly from university in the coming years.

Among the survey’s specific findings:

  • The sector contributes more than $33 billion annually to Ontario’s gross domestic product and sustains more than 200,000 jobs.
  • More than one-third of surveyed companies reported difficulty in finding qualified candidates.
  • Two-thirds of surveyed employers prefer hiring OAC graduates.
  • Three jobs exist for every agriculture graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
  • At the diploma level, industry requires about 500 new hires annually; OAC graduates about 400 diploma students each year.
  • At the bachelor's degree level, industry needs 250 to 330 new hires a year in agriculture and 50 to 90 in food processing. About 100 students graduate from OAC in agriculture and about 30 in food science each year.
  • At the graduate level, industry needs up to 100 positions a year; more than one-third of responding companies reported difficulty in finding qualified candidates.

The report said the agri-food sector looks for specific qualifications, including “soft skills” (communication, organization, teamwork) and relevant scientific knowledge and technical skills in areas such as crop science, animal science and genetics. Respondents said OAC grads measured up very well in these areas.

Download the survey summary document here.

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