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Canada: Subject Guides

Why it’s worth studying agriculture in Canada

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Agriculture is an important, yet sometimes, forgotten industry. It’s how we get the food we eat, products we use and plays a vital role for the environment.


Canada is the fifth largest agricultural exporter in the world. It also contributes over C$100bn annually to the economy and employs roughly 2.3mn Canadians.


So why are there so many misconceptions about the industry? A career in agriculture isn’t just about taking care of farm animals and growing fruit and vegetables. It helps to maintain ecosystems and the environment. As time progresses, it is expected that technology will be incorporated into more roles too.


We spoke to Scott Ross, Director of Business Risk and Farm Policy for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, who was happy to shed some light on this thriving industry.


On the number of graduates entering the industry

“I know that currently right now for those taking an agricultural programme, there’s three jobs for every agricultural graduate coming out of postsecondary institutions in Canada. Right now, programmes in Canada’s postsecondary institution can’t keep up with the demand that exists in the sector.”


On the sectors that are high in demand

“The most workers per farm at least or per operation per capita would be in horticulture, so that includes fresh fruit and vegetable production because it’s in one labour intensive industry. Whereas grains and oilseed production, in most instances has mechanised to a larger extent to larger equipment and new innovative technology. What we see in fruit and vegetable is a lot of the jobs that need to be done can’t be mechanised or at least not any further than they already have been. There’s certainly more jobs per farm existing in fruit and vegetable production than any other sector. There’s a lot of very manual, hands-on labour needed. I think when you’re talking about sectors of agriculture, if you look outside of just production itself, there’s a really big range of jobs available in the advisory service, which looks at things like ergonomics, working with equipment manufacturers and helping educate and providing outreach to farmers on how equipment works. As we get more technologically advanced we’ll see a lot of opportunity in that space helping educate and train farmers and farm workers how to use some of the advanced technology that is now required in modern agriculture.”


On sectors within agriculture that needs more workers

“I would say it’s the fruit and vegetable sectors. They have the most jobs but they also have the most vacancies right now.”


“I think because a number of the jobs in that sector don’t necessarily appeal to many Canadians. There’s a few reasons. Part of it is the operations tend to be in remote locations so they’re not near urban centres. Secondly the work is very physically demanding so a lot of Canadians that use to do that kind of work, we find they are no longer interested or when they do come out, Canadian workers do apply for these jobs but they don’t stay very long. I think it’s the nature of the work and the fact that it’s very entry level work that is required in many instances. I mean there are opportunities for advancement but a lot of the vacancies and openings we continue to see are at that entry level stage rather than the more advanced and technology-related jobs.”


On career advancement within the industry

“It depends on the position. I think the same issue is that when people talk about agriculture they think of it as one career and it’s a really diverse sector with a lot of different opportunities. It really depends on how you get involved in this sector and what your career advancement opportunities look like. So, if you’re working in a research field for example, it’s a completely different set of opportunities than what you’d see if you were working in production on a farm. On a farm level, the advancement opportunities that exist would be an entry level farm labourer up to a farm manager where you’re actually taking on responsibility for management of the operations of a farm facility. Subsequently, I think the opportunity you can get ultimately is an ownership stake in an operation with the owner operator. Increasingly we see more and more farmers looking at employed workers as successors to their farms. It’s no longer expected that you have to pass the farm along to your own family. There’s also the opportunity to move into an ownership position if you’re working at the farm level.”


On career opportunities for international students in Canada

“Very high. Our immigration system is geared towards people who have educated themselves in Canada or internationally high skilled workers for in-demand positions. So, if it was a skilled position that required an advanced degree of some kind, given that there are more jobs than there are graduates in Canada, I would think there’s a very high probability that they would find work. We have a point system for immigration in Canada that really factors in skills and qualifications and English fluency. Job offers count towards it, so if you have an existing job offer it helps you come in as a permanent resident. If it’s more of a temporary position, we also have a number of different immigration streams that help more of a temporary exchange. Generally, there’s a fair bit of that kind of arrangement already taking place within Canada where foreign students are coming in, working on farms on a temporary basis to learn what Canadian agriculture is all about, particularly in the west. Right now, we’re seeing operations where there’s very advanced technology being used and ergonomic practices. I do think there’s a fair bit of opportunity for students to come to Canada and spend some time working in Canadian agriculture, and if there are graduates looking for a permanent full-time job and are interested in moving to Canada on a permanent basis, there are opportunities for that as well.”


On misconceptions people have about the agricultural industry

“The biggest misconception we see when people talk about agriculture is often that it is a low skilled sector with only low-wage, entry level opportunities. When you actually look at the entire range of what’s available and included within agriculture, there’s a lot a of very high-tech equipment being used and high skilled positions that have a lot of opportunity to move up for real career advancement. Also, when you look at agriculture, people often just think about working in the field, they don’t look at the whole range of services and research that goes into it as well. There are opportunities that exist for post-secondary education to pursue careers in research, technology advancement, things like that. That’s the number one misconception I always feel and people are talking about in particular careers in agriculture.”



If you’re excited about learning the surprising career paths within agriculture in Canada!


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