Ontario’s food processing sector is one of the largest existing in North America, with yearly sales totaling over $34 billion. Yet, there are many challenges the industry faces based on employee needs, causing the labor force to be weaker than anticipated. The Canadian Agricultural Partnership has put the Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative in place to solve labor market issues. The Initiative aims to grow the labor market for food processors by enticing individuals to get employed by them or continue their employment. The Partnership looks to build a more vital labor force carrying the agri-food sector’s short and long-term growth by providing the required tools.
Type of Funding Available
The Ontario Agri-Careers Support Initiative provides nearly $4 million in cost-share funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Eligible projects for applicants that only have one business associated with the application are eligible for up to 70% of total eligible project costs to be covered, with a maximum of $80,000. Eligible projects for applicants with more than one business associated with the application are eligible for up to 70% of total eligible project costs covered but to a maximum of $200,000.
Applicants must be Ontario-based food processors that are directly involved with the Transformation of agricultural commodities, foods, beverages, or Agri-based bio-products that are:
- Heavily impacted by labor shortages
- Have a capacity to innovate solutions to attract and retain employees
The applicants must also meet the following criteria:
- Processors must have over 100 employees at the time of application.
- Processors could include manufacturers directly involved in transforming Ontario’s agricultural commodities, foods, beverages, or Agri-based bio-products.
Businesses can apply by themselves or with a business collaboration, considering both entities:
- Should be currently pursuing and engaged in the project, contributing cash towards it
- Have over 100 employees at the time of application
- Must be located, actively operating, and engaged in the Transformation of products within Ontario
- Involved with agriculture, agri-food, and agri-products sector
- Within compliance with all Requirements of Law, agreeing to remain in compliance for the duration of the project
For your project to be eligible, they must address the staffing shortages currently faced by Ontario food processors
- Addressing the labor challenges dependent on employee needs for specific businesses
- Must be providing critical data particular to the food processing industry
- Encourage and pursue innovative solutions for the labor shortages faced in Ontario
- The projects should address community-level challenges in Ontario’s agriculture, agri-food, and agri-products sector.
- The project should plan to capture the relevant data and lessons that would help achieve a more potent labor force and support the agri-food sector’s growth.
- Projects can have business collaborations involving not-for-profit organizations, municipalities, and academic/research institutions that help with data capturing, data validation, and knowledge transfer activities.
- The projects should also address the challenges food processors face in rural locations.
- The activities should be pursuing innovative solutions addressing the staffing shortages within the agri-food sector.
- Encouraging solutions that address community-level challenges that may be affecting the recruitment and retention of workers, such as:
- Local transportation
- Language proficiency
- Identification of on-site employee amenities
- Human resources policies or programs
The costs must be directly related to the progression of the project, such as:
- Costs related to the purchasing of goods (including supplies) and all related shipping or transportation costs
- Labor costs for the individuals directly related to carrying out the project (contract salaries, benefits, and specific per diem fees)
- The cost of employee training and skill development, mentoring, or coaching.
- The cost of licensed childcare and day camps (applicant must attest that their employees are not receiving funding for childcare through other forms of government or rebate programs)
- Third-party services costs of service providers conducting research, training, communications, translation, promotion, or other services related to the project
- Software and software development, excluding licensing or service fees
- Costs of rental facilities and equipment
- The cost of local travel to assist employees reaching work or home
Projects cannot start before they are approved by the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAP), with the date communicated once the applicant’s funding decision is out. Eligible costs cannot be incurred any later than September 30, 2022. The initial deadline to apply for the Initiative is April 7, 2022. The AAP will announce additional intakes if funding is available after the first intake.