IPP&T Magazine Online

Skilled workers needed in food and beverage sector: report

April 30, 2021   Don Horne

The latest labour market information study, At the Crossroad to Greatness – Key Insights & Labour Market Research About Canada’s Food and Beverage Processing Industry, shows that the food and beverage industry is desperately in need of skilled workers.

This report from Food Processing Skills Canada – the Canadian food and beverage manufacturing industry’s non-profit workforce development organization – quantifies the financial impact of unfilled jobs in the industry, a chronic situation that began prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Despite being the leading manufacturing sector employer in Canada (19.5 per cent of all manufacturing jobs), food and beverage processors need 56,000 more people, or 20 per cent of the current workforce, if the industry is to achieve 2025 growth targets.

Economic analysis estimates that a single unfilled position in the food and beverage processing industry could cost businesses as much as $190 per day in lost net revenue. Aggregated over the entire sector, losses from job vacancies total an estimated $8.5 million in net revenue per day or if not resolved, $3.1 billion annually.


“Business development is incumbent on a strong and skilled workforce. For small to medium-sized operations like mine we cannot grow without skilled employees to drive innovation and productivity.” Lynn Rayner, operations manager, Acadian Supreme, Prince Edward Island.

At the Crossroad to Greatness confirms that there is tremendous potential in connecting Canadian job seekers with Canada’s more than 7,600 food and beverage processing business employers. Domestically, there is the requirement for a safe and consistent food supply. Globally, the demand for food will more than double by 2050 fuelled by a growing population and an expanding middle class.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has proven that the Canadian food and beverage processing industry is a resilient and secure sector. In 2020, food and beverage processors retained 98 per cent of their 2019 workforce which was well above the economy wide average of 91 per cent. Consumers also recognize frontline food workers as essential workers that are committed to ensuring people have access to safe food.

However, the research shows that recruitment and retention continues to be the number one workforce growth challenge for businesses, especially those located in rural and remote regions of the country.

“In 2020, the unemployment rate in Canada was 9.5 per cent, up from 5.7 per cent the previous year – we understand the serious impact COVID-19 has had on Canadians. More than ever, people need good jobs and the industry – especially small to medium-sized operations and employers in the meat and seafood sectors – need people,” said Jennefer Griffith, executive director, Food Processing Skills Canada.

Key Recommendations

  • Establish a national awareness and reputation program, and ensure the program has measurable targets and defined audiences.
  • Offer Workplace Integrated Learning opportunities to students, especially in the skilled trades, through local educational institutions to provide job experiences and a bridge to future employment.
  • Offer onboarding and training in relevant languages for the workforce.
  • Collaborate with governments, unions, and training institutions to develop more post-secondary education programs aimed at producing food and beverage processing production workers, particularly in areas of the country where such programs are currently scarce or non-existent, such as Atlantic Canada.
  • Make investments in research and development and commercialization of new technologies, especially in uniquely Canadian products.
  • Develop more capacity within pre-arrival training programs like Food Processing Skills Canada’s Food Safety Employment Readiness Program which provides training to successfully support an individual in starting a new career in Canada’s food and beverage processing sector.
  • Map seasonal workforces in Canada to help seasonal food and beverage processors better target their recruitment for workers and help governments better understand labour availability and mobility.

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