Seafood processing industry provides a good living, skill building, and advancement
by Gloria Welton
Acadian Supreme Inc. and industry leaders want to get the message out that working at a seafood plant is a great way to make a good living. Many of the plants across the Island have advanced technology and now offer work for more months of the year.
“We have a state-of-the-art facility,” says Lynn Rayner, Operations Manager for Acadian Supreme Inc. “Many are surprised by how modern the facility is and how many opportunities there are to progress and advance. I started as Quality Manager and moved into Operations. I have worked year-round for the company for 19 years. I was a seasonal employee for six years prior to that. We have Team Leaders and well as Quality Personnel who started as front line workers.”
Work duration has expanded and hiring needs
“In the last few years, our season has expanded,” says Lynn. “We started co-packaging for other companies and doing value added repackaging as well. So, we have been able to extend our work to eight to 10 months per year.
“In the off season, we require about 30 people to cover the new packaging we are doing now. Now our focus is to draw in more work in hopes of being able to get to about 11 months of work with a smaller number of staff. Our aim is to work with more products besides lobster and for longer than the typical 20 weeks per year.
“This year at our facility in Wellington, about 56 staff have returned for this season. Since that number is lower than last year, we are recruiting heavily for students, and we have sponsored 30 foreign workers. We haven’t had to bring in foreign workers to our plant since 2016.
“To run all our lines effectively for the lobster season, we need a total of 140 to 160 people.”
“We have advanced equipment to help us out with the labour shortage. But even with equipment updates and the foreign workers here, we certainly are actively recruiting more staff.
“Our new equipment does the work of about 30 people, but each year some employees do not return because of retirement, so we must continue to hire to meet our staffing needs. We are dealing with the labour shortage through technology, bringing in more foreign workers, recruiting youth and students, and we offer great training to help people advance.”
Students earn a good salary for the summer and connect to financial supports
Lynn says two years ago, they hired the most ever students at the plant. “Last year we were down a bit but we were still higher than previously as a result of Team Food Island.”
This program offers a bonus to high school and post-secondary students. For more information, visit www.teamfoodisland.ca
“We need to get the word out that students can earn a good wage for the summer months. Now is even a better time to work in the seafood industry because of the bursary at the end of their work term. Years back, my daughter paid her way through post-secondary by working here at the plant during her four summer breaks.”
Lynn also wants to make it clear that the bursary is for high school students and for post-secondary students 15 years of age and older. “This is a great way to support your educational journey, and we are seeing students come back to the industry year after year.
“Also, students going into post-secondary or are there already can work enough hours to qualify for Career Connect.”
Career Connect allows individuals who qualify for regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits to continue to receive those benefits while attending full-time post-secondary studies within Canada for the duration of their claim.
For more information, visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/career-connect
All levels of foreign workers needed in this industry
Jerry Gavin, Executive Director of the PEI Seafood Processors Association and a third-generation fisher, says the industry has progressed over the last 40 years. “Technology has changed the way seafood processing operates but we will never get away from the need for temporary foreign workers in this industry.”
He says all three levels of foreign workers are needed: temporary foreign workers, those put on a pathway to permanent residency, and permanent residents. “It is a great news story that those who achieve permanent residency status are staying in our communities and contributing to our economy. It is just amazing how they contribute to our rural businesses, schools, churches, and the list goes on.
“In western PEI alone, over 200 foreign workers are now permanent residents with a majority being from the Philippines. This number is growing.
“All three levels of immigrants will always be a part of the solution to the labour shortage with seafood processing companies on PEI. The seafood industry will always need temporary foreign workers to help fill the gaps in our industry. This is no different than those who leave our province to work in Alberta. Some temporary foreign workers also come and go and come back again but want to be based in their home country and have no intention of moving their families here.
“Many temporary foreign workers need the work and work hard when they get here, but they want to go back home. However, there is good news even though due to the aging workforce, PEI citizens leaving the industry due to retirement are being replaced with temporary foreign workers and permanent residents. One employer told me that last year, a permanent resident family – husband, wife, and their teenager worked in the plant, which is incredible.”
The nature of the work and training at Acadian Supreme Inc.
“At this facility, you will not necessarily be standing in one place working with lobster all the time. The work is diverse, and we want to give staff a variety of duties and experience.”
Lynn says they encourage staff to update their skills and they continue to provide training for supervisors, quality control, and front-line workers through a Canadian training system and through in-house training.
“We are always striving to make our production better. When auditors come from all over the world to inspect our plant, we look for new ways to make a difference and make our company a great place to work.”
“This year the starting wage is $16.25 per hour. Machine Operators start at $17.00 and some other jobs have pay levels between that range,” says Lynn. “We typically offer staff advancement to jobs such as Quality Inspectors and Supervisors. In the next eight to 10 years there will be more opportunity for advancement as more people retire.
“We offer overtime hours for staff because we have to work with the demand and supply of the product.”
HOW TO APPLY:
Drop into the location and/or contact Lynn Rayner, Operations Manager, at 902-854-2675 or email email@example.com
For more information about the bursary for high school and post-secondary students, visit www.teamfoodisland.ca
For more about the PEI Seafood Processors Association, visit www.peispa.com