“The goal is to give young people job experience,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal agriculture minister, during a Thursday video conference with media to announced increased funding for the ministry’s Youth Employment and Skills program (YES).
The 2021 federal budget doubled funding for the YES program to $21.4 million, enough to support small-, medium-, and large-sized farm and agribusiness operations to hire more than 2000 young people this year. The YES program will subsidize half of the wages, up to a maximum of $14,000, for youth workers, ages 15 to 30, hired by farm or agribusiness owners. The program also offers a travel-and-lodging subsidy for eligible applicants whose youth employees may need to travel from other parts of Canada to get to their new jobs and also need a place to live.
Young people hired under the program do not have to come from farm families or have any previous experience with agriculture. The goals of the youth employment program are to help young people find jobs and get practical work experience and also help Canada’s agriculture sector which suffered from labour shortages last year. Migrant farm workers from other countries make up a large part of Canada’s agricultural work force and the pandemic prevented their entry into the country to work.
Justin Williams, chair of the Young Farmers Forum, noted during the conference, that another goal of the program is to encourage more interest among Canadian youth to consider careers in agriculture, whether it involves becoming farmers themselves or taking up related careers in agriculture.
“Farming is an important profession,” Williams said. “Everyone has to eat three times a day. It’s important to bring young people back to the farm.”
Farm owners and others involves in agribusiness can get details on applying for the YES program at the federal agriculture ministry website.