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Planning for Tomorrow (2.0 Report)

It’s a good time to be entering Ontario’s food and agriculture sector.

In fact, there are currently four jobs for every graduate of the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), according to a new “Planning for Tomorrow 2.0” report commissioned by OAC.

Based on a survey of 123 Ontario employers in the sector, the report provides a snapshot of hiring trends and demands in food and agriculture. The new survey updates a previous Planning for Tomorrow report from five years earlier.  Synthesis Agri-Food Network, in collaboration with Orion Global Business Sustainability Consultants, conducted the new study.

Key Findings of the Report

  • Today there are 4 jobs for every OAC graduate entering Ontario’s food and agriculture sector.
  • 44% of food employers and 56% of agriculture employers surveyed project a general increase in the average number of new hires over the next five years.
  • 77% of food employers and 79% of agriculture employers have a preference for formal training in food and agriculture graduates.
  • 50% of food and 57% of agriculture employers surveyed stated that more than half of their employees require or have post-secondary education.
  • 51% of food respondents and 67% of agriculture respondents reported difficulties in finding recruits.
  • Surveyed employers communicated a strong demand for co-op programs and experiential learning.

Educational Programs

The Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph offers a suite of diploma, undergraduate and graduate programs that serve the interests of students and the needs of the food and agriculture sectors. View a list of our associate diplomasundergraduate degrees and graduate degrees offered.

Report Supporters

Special thanks to Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show, Farm Credit Canada, RBC Royal Bank and the OAC Alumni Foundation for their financial support of the Planning for Tomorrow 2.0 study.

Previous Planning for Tomorrow Reports

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.

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.

View the survey summary document here.