Alberta, in partnership with the federal government, is providing $2.5 million to the charitable organization Ag for Life to help companies recruit and retain workers in the agriculture and agri-food industry.
The funding will provide eligible organizations with grants of up to $40,000 to increase public awareness of agricultural career opportunities through online advertising campaigns.
“Last year, almost 97,000 Albertans were supported under the federal labour market transfers with Alberta. This funding is critical to supporting Ag for Life, reaching more Albertans with labour market training supports and ensuring that employers have the skilled workers they need,” said Carla Qualtrough, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, in a statement.
As part of the funding, Ag for Life will also offer grants of up to $25,000 to provide organizations with human resources training to support worker retention.
In 2021, Alberta’s agri-food industries employed 58,300 Albertans, with 35,900 in primary agriculture and 22,400 in food and beverage manufacturing. There were about 2,500 temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector and 1,900 in Alberta’s agri-food, which represents about seven per cent of the workforce for these sectors.
“Alberta’s agriculture sector continues to grow and set new investment and export records despite facing numerous challenges. This funding will help producers and processors with their labour needs so they can remain competitive, grow their businesses, and respond to an international food shortage,” said Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Nate Horner.
The province said food manufacturing was the largest industry in Alberta (23.8 per cent of provincial manufacturing sales), ahead of petroleum and coal product manufacturing (22.7 per cent) and chemical manufacturing (16.8 per cent) in 2021.
Last year value-added exports grew for the eighth consecutive year to $8.2 billion, up 23.4 per cent from 2020, representing 58.4 per cent of Alberta’s total agri-food exports.
Higher exports of beef, canola oil (crude and refined), oilseed cake and meal, processed potatoes and prepared animal feeds contributed to the increase.
Exports of beef, the largest value-added product, jumped 40 per cent to a record $3.5 billion.
Eligible companies can apply for grants through Ag for Life until March 2024. The funding is being provided through the Canada-Alberta Labour Market Development Agreement.