Protein Industries Canada announced an investment into a program that will introduce youth in Kindergarten through Grade 12 to the career opportunities available to them in the plant-protein, agrifood and digital agriculture sectors.
Part of a $2 million co-investment with the Enterprise Machine Intelligence & Learning Initiative (EMILI), national STEM outreach charity Actua and Agriculture in the Classroom Canada (AITC-C), the project is intended to help address the agriculture industry’s growing need for a skilled workforce. In particular, it focuses on building capacity and fostering a competitive business environment within the plant-protein sector as Canada works toward positioning itself as a global leader in the supply of plant-based ingredients, food and feed.
“As Canada’s agricultural sector continues to grow and innovate, it is creating more good, well-paying jobs,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. “To support this growing sector, we must promote equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM professions, and educate youth about the opportunities available in these occupations before they make their career choices. We must ensure that we have a skilled workforce representative of the diversity of talent that exists in Canada. That’s what the Protein Industries Supercluster is helping to do: foster more diverse environments in the future.”
The program will engage youth in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, with a particular focus on Indigenous and other under-represented groups. It will be based on Actua’s existing STEM and digital skills programming, which incorporates Indigenous perspectives and land-based learning, and expand upon agriculture curriculum developed by the partners.
The program, targeted to reach 69,000 youth over three years, will increase knowledge of career opportunities in the agrifood sector and be delivered by post-secondary students from colleges and universities in Actua’s network across the prairies.
“Canada has the potential to become a global leader in plant protein, and strengthening and maintaining that reputation requires a knowledgeable, skilled workforce now and into the future,” Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel said. “By teaching students about the opportunities available to them in our sector, EMILI, Actua and AITC are helping fill that need. They’re helping teach a new generation that our sector is filled with potential, and that it’s one where they can flourish in whatever capacity best suits them.”
The project is the first to be announced under Protein Industries Canada’s Capacity Building Program umbrella. EMILI, Actua and AITC-C are together investing $600,000 into the project, with Protein Industries Canada investing the remaining $1.4 million.
“In order to attract more skilled talent to the plant protein and digital agriculture sectors, we need to engage early and ensure that school-age students know about the exciting and ever-growing opportunities in the agri-food industry,” EMILI Board Chair Ray Bouchard said. “This approach to engagement should allow for a stronger pipeline of post-secondary graduates for the industry. This program is an important activity for doing just that, with local network members and staff. The digital agriculture opportunity in Canada is significant and we will need talent from all backgrounds and disciplines to fully leverage the opportunity for Canada.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Protein Industries Canada, EMILI and Actua on the development of these impactful learning opportunities for young Canadians,” said Johanne Ross, Executive Director of Agriculture in the Classroom Canada. “AITC knows that the future of Canada’s agriculture sector will rely on innovative and cutting-edge participation from tomorrow’s agriculture leaders. By helping develop these lessons, we will all benefit by inspiring students to get curious about the highly technological careers in agriculture and food. No matter where their passions lie, there is a role for every student!”
Protein Industries Canada plans to invest more than $15 million into activities to build capacity in Canada’s agrifood sector. Applications for Capacity Building projects are accepted on a continual intake cycle.