A labour market outlook the province released this week forecasts 7,100 jobs openings in agriculture and supporting sectors over the next decade.
Approximately 6,800 openings will become available through attrition while 300 will be the result of the sector’s expansion, according to the report from the Labour Market Information Office of the BC Ministry of Advanced Education & Skills Training.
The outlook breaks down job openings by region, with agriculture in the major Mainland Southwest region offering 2,694 job openings, the Thompson Okanagan offering 2,177 openings and Vancouver Island having 1,375 openings.
But most of the job openings will be driven by attrition, with expansion and new development a factor in just three regions – the Thompson Okanagan, Northeastern BC and Vancouver Island. Lower Mainland farms will actually see a net contraction in new demand over the period, shedding 72 jobs. By contrast, the Thompson Okanagan will have an additional 385 positions.
Overall demand underscores the deepening labour challenges facing BC farms.
A study examining labour demand through 2029 by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council indicated that the province saw 3,100 positions, or about 8% of roles filled by domestic workers, go unfilled in 2017. This gap could grow to 15,200 positions by 2029, with retirements driving about a third of the demand.
While the provincial figures indicate a lower demand for workers, CAHRC project manager Debra Hauer says the pandemic may be a factor. Just how much of a factor is something CAHRC is studying.
“The pandemic lead to a decrease in employment in the sector and we are trying to get a handle on this issue in the coming months,” she says.
BC’s farm sector employed 28,500 workers, excluding temporary foreign workers, in 2021.