Innovation and technology are now key components of the agriculture and agri-food industry. They’ve helped accelerate Canada’s global digital agricultural leadership as we revolutionize how we create, produce, deliver, and dispose of our food.
But there remains a significant problem threatening the industry’s potential – the widening skills gap and labour shortage.
Canada’s agriculture industry is projected to face a domestic shortage of 123,000 workers within a decade. This is a result of the rapid rate of technological and digital advancement which has transformed farm and food production skills. And, we know that one-quarter of Canada’s farmers are expected to retire by year 2025. Now more than ever it is vital that we invest in building STEM and digital skills among youth so they can continue to grow and strengthen Canada’s agriculture industry.
“Actua, EMILI, and Agriculture in the Classroom have come together to support Protein Industry Canada to grow and strengthen Canada’s agriculture sectors in Canada,” said Actua CEO Jennifer Flanagan.
“Together, we’re building skills, awareness and interest in digital agriculture among youth and connecting youth to relevant career paths and opportunities.” she said.
By working with an advisory panel of experts, we’ve enabled Actua’s network of universities and colleges across the prairies to incorporate digital agriculture into their existing STEM programs.
These programs build critical skills and connect youth to relevant career opportunities. They also promote diverse perspectives, especially those of Indigenous Peoples who have maintained a deep understanding of and connection to the land.
For example, the University of Manitoba is now teaching local youth how agricultural practices, technology and coding go hand-in-hand to grow plants and food. At the University of Lethbridge, youth are 3D designing and printing water storage units to feed irrigation systems. They are also learning about water quality, physics and computer science. Agriculture in the Classroom is also developing curriculum-linked presentations for students in grades 10-12 to demonstrate what a digital agriculture career could look like in the near future
“By teaching students about the opportunities available to them in our sector, EMILI, Actua and Agriculture in the Classroom are helping to strengthen and maintain Canada’s reputation as a leader in digital agriculture,” said EMILI Managing Director Jacqueline Keena.
“We’re also working collaboratively to show a new generation that the digital agriculture sector is filled with potential,” she said.
In just over a year, The Explore Project engaged close to 58,000 youth across the prairies in STEM and digital-skill building programs, including more than 11,000 Indigenous youth.
More importantly, 82% of these youth say they’ve learned something new about digital agriculture, helping prepare them for new opportunities and inspire future career choices.
This surpasses the targets set at the launch of the program. And, it’s only the beginning. Actua, EMILI, and Agriculture in the Classroom are committed to working together to prepare future leaders by providing opportunities for youth to explore digital agriculture and take part in experiential activities, such as solving agricultural challenges with robotics and automation; collecting and analyzing moisture data; and germinating seeds while learning about the latest soil science.
While we may not know what the future jobs in this sector will be, the Explore Project is preparing youth with the skills and confidence to succeed,” said Keena.
“We are thankful to all of our members, partners and advisors for their continued support and guidance as we continue to engage the leaders and innovators of the future,” said Flanagan.
Follow #ExploreDigitalAg on social media to learn more about how we are working together to prepare the leaders of the future.