New partnership to increase skills and talent in Canada’s agrifood sector

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) is helping to develop a new, $1.08-million specialized training program targeted at preparing workers for the jobs agri-food sector employers are eager to fill.

Together with the national non-profit organization Palette Skills, Winnipeg-based non-profit Enterprise and Machine Learning Initiative (EMILI), and Economic Development Regina, USask will develop a program focused on increasing employment opportunities among under-represented populations such as the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) community, and new Canadians to help solve the labour shortage the agri-food sector faces.

Protein Industries Canada, one of Canada’s five non-profit innovation superclusters, is investing $1.01 million with the partner organizations investing the remaining amount. The funding will pay for the design and launch of a pilot program in Saskatchewan to train 50 workers who will then be placed in the highly-in-demand jobs.

The core focus of the pilot will be to connect companies within the sector to the diverse, well-trained, and skilled talent needed to scale up their businesses and accelerate Canada’s economic recovery. If proven successful, there is potential to expand the program across the Prairies.

Palette Skills will leverage its successful “skilling” model, consulting with industry partners to determine the most pressing skills needed in the industry and developing solutions to meet those needs.

As a leader in agricultural research, the USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources will support the program’s design and industry engagement, leveraging its strong relationships to help grow the project’s employer consortium and contribute its knowledge and experience toward the program’s curriculum.

Economic Development Regina and EMILI will support the partners’ industry engagement and integration of digital agriculture skills.

The project marks Protein Industries Canada’s sixth project announcement through its capacity building program, and its 30th project overall. Together with industry, Protein Industries Canada has invested more than $451 million to Canada’s plant-based food, feed and ingredients ecosystem.


“The University of Saskatchewan provides a pipeline of research and trained members of the workforce, empowering the agricultural industry to feed the world. This partnership is an example of how our institution is focused on innovation and creating new paths of discovery by working with government and industry partners.” – USask Vice-President Research Baljit Singh.

Ensuring that Canada has a secure and sustainable agriculture sector with an adaptable and highly skilled workforce is essential in driving our economic recovery post-pandemic. The pandemic forced many companies in the region to change their businesses, modify their supply chains and adopt new technologies. Companies in the Prairies have been leaders in adopting advanced technologies and pivoting during the pandemic, and we’re excited about the opportunity to help them access the skilled talent needed to adapt and thrive in this new and challenging environment.” – Palette Skills CEO Dr. Arvind Gupta.

“Providing opportunities for people to learn and gain skills needed for agricultural careers provides dividends across communities and industries. The College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan is excited to partner with Palette Skills for this pilot project that will help so many people and industry partners.” – USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Trever Crowe.

“The growth of Canada’s plant-based food and ingredient ecosystem is dependent on having the people with the right skills and talents. We expect by 2035 that more than 17,000 Canadians will be employed in Canada’s plant-based food ecosystem. This program will help engage those not familiar with our sector, including under-represented groups, and provide them with some of the most in-demand skills, so they can become a part of this growing and exciting sector, providing SMEs with the employees they need to scale-up and meet the growing demand for Canada’s plant-based food and ingredients.” – Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel.

Share this story