by MIKE BEAUDIN
A Conservative MPP wants Ontario high school students to learn more about careers in the agri-food industry.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson has introduced a private members’ motion requesting that an agri-food component, focused on career opportunities, be added to the province’s Grade 9 and 10 guidance and career education curriculum.
Thompson says there’s a labour shortage in the province’s agri-food industry as older workers retire and skills for new workers evolve.
photo: Lisa Thompson
In an email interview, Thompson said she is working hard to demonstrate the importance of including agri-food careers into the existing high school curriculum. She said she has the support of farm leaders and educators through Ontario Agri-Food Education (OAFE).
There are at least three to four jobs waiting for every new Ag Science grad. It’s also difficult to attract candidates for good on-farm management jobs, said Thompson.
“It all starts with awareness and exposure to opportunities in today's agri-food industry. It is one thing for the premier (Kathleen Wynne) to challenge the industry to develop 120,000 new jobs by 2020 – but we can't let the cart get ahead of the horse. This sector has already proven itself to have jobs available – but the number of people properly trained for those available positions just don’t match up.”
She said most people are now a couple of generations removed from primary agriculture and not as aware of today's career opportunities within the sector, and most educators are not aware of the curriculum available through OAFE.
Thompson said she has been a long-standing supporter of agriculture in the classroom. She formerly worked for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) as a rural community advisor in the regions of Halton and Peel and supported provincial summer institutes designed to equip teachers to teach lessons on Ontario's agriculture and food sectors.
Before being elected to the legislature in 2011, she was general manager of the Ontario Dairy Goat Cooperative and represented the cooperative on the OAFE’s board of directors.
Although the government enacts few private members’ motions, Thompson said her bill deserves consideration because it has the support of industry and educators and will enhance the Liberal government’s goal of creating 120,000 new agri-food jobs. BF