21 Jan 2019

Newcomers’ skills will help province’s agriculture industry

A research project at the Association for New Canadians is matching the farming experience of former refugees with the increasing need for food workers in their new home.

Bridging the Divide evolved following discussions after teachers of English noticed how many of the newcomers had experience on farms. At a time when the Provincial Agricultural Strategy and the owners of farms and primary and secondary processors are having trouble finding workers, it seemed a natural fit.

“The agriculture sector’s goal in the province’s The Way Forward Plan is to double food production by 2020.  This projected growth means an increase in the requirements for a labour market with the right skills at the time in the right place,” says Sharon McLennon, Director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Workforce Innovation Centre. 

The Centre provided research funding to the ANC under its First Call for Proposals; Bridging the Divide is one of 14 research projects approved to date. These projects are designed to research and test new models of workforce development and provide evidence regarding their impact on employability, employment and self-employment. 

“We are looking forward to the results of the customized training of former refugees for farm work that includes product development to meet the Agriculture Sector’s goals as well as the investigation of how to best integrate new Canadians into the province,” McLennon added.

 Over the next 10 weeks, Bridging the Divide’s 15 students will learn industry-related English skills, as well as farm safety, WHMIS and First Aid, general employment readiness, introductory entrepreneurship skills and employee/employer rights.

“The students are eager to learn the skills that will help them support themselves and their families in their new country,” says project manager Sarah Thompson. “And farmers and other employers are telling us they are happy to see this source of trained and experienced workers.”