Laurie Loane, Executive Director of PEI Agriculture Sector Council, is proud of all the great work taking place across the Island to promote careers in agriculture and safety on the job.
“We were successful in getting a Workers Compensation Board (WCB) grant last year to develop the first Agriculture Train the Trainer safety program, and we put that on for six weeks with a group of farms across the Island.
“The program was awarded a Special Project National Award and presented at the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering 2019 conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We applied for another WCB grant to develop the project further, perhaps into videos or an online module with an educational institution.
“This is the first time such a program has been offered. It includes the training procedures farmers should be following, and gives them the ability to take the information and train their staff.”
Employment services match job seekers with employers
Agriculture employment services are offered year-round. People can contact Natalie Li to post jobs or connect with an employer.
“Our industry is changing,” says Laurie. “A lot more crops are growing longer into the season. More warehouses are being constructed, which extends the work season and means jobs can extend for a longer period of time.
“Potato farmers look to hire more people in March and April. In the summer, 200 to 300 jobs could be listed, and there are still a lot of jobs available in the fall and winter. It’s more than labour jobs. There are a lot of high-end jobs too, like management and Human Resources.
“With our current demographics, demand far outweighs the supply of people willing to work in agriculture, which is very common now for most industries across PEI. It is important that we talk to students in schools to get them interested in agriculture.
“The Academy Diploma Program in Agriculture allows students to customize their high school experiences by focusing their learning on a specific economic sector. This program can be done while meeting the requirements for obtaining a PEI High School Graduation Certificate. I am also involved in Agriculture in the Classroom Canada, and we just started a PEI division.
“One of our coordinators, Marilyn Balderson, does a GEN AG program to engage youth in agriculture. That project helps students market careers in agriculture to their peers, and it has morphed into an unexpected direction.
“One school shut down the school parking lot and brought in guest speakers and animals, and every student got to experience agriculture that day. Another school held an evening event, inviting the whole community to share a locally-sourced meal. They also held a mini trade show featuring jobs and careers in agriculture with guest speakers.
“We have changed focus from holding events at the Farm Centre to holding them at local schools, which engages more students. We also highlight women in agriculture and science by visiting schools to encourage girls to pursue science and math.”
Farm Technician Apprenticeship program
PEI was the first province to offer a Blue Seal Farm Technician Agriculture Apprenticeship program. “We have worked with Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture and Apprenticeship PEI for the last 11 years to develop and facilitate the program.”
The Farm Tech program is a two-year registered apprenticeship program offering hands-on experience on a farm gaining skills with a farm mentor. Apprentices also participate in five weeks of in-class training on PEI delivered by instructors from Extended Learning, Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture.
The program teaches skills such as crop production, pesticide application, food safety, production of potatoes, forages and other field crops, shop skills, preventative maintenance, tractor safety, communications, occupational health and safety, soil and nutrient management, and much more.
After they complete the program and log 6,000 hours, Apprentices write the Certificate of Qualification exam for Farm Technicians to obtain a Blue Seal from Apprenticeship PEI.
“Farmers are always looking for employees,” says Laurie. “The Farm Technician designation shows that they received set training and education that will add to their skill set, which means a lot to employers.
Laurie says those interested in taking the program can sign up at any time. Applications are reviewed by Apprenticeship PEI, which sets up the paperwork and logbooks, which track hours and the skills they must have.
For more information about the PEI Agriculture Sector Council, contact Laurie Loane at 902-892-1091, email [email protected].