Labour and Skills Training Discussion Paper

Skilled labour is critical to any farm operation.  Trained employees increase farm productivity and efficiency.  Additionally, with sufficient labour, farms are able to add value to their products which creates an opportunity to increase revenues and grow markets.

The Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council (CAHRC) conducted a study across Canadian farms and the agriculture industry to identify the gaps and associated costs.  The Labour Market Inventory report identified current trends in agriculture labour as well as projected trends based on population growth and distribution.  The report identified the unique labour market challenges that the industry faces and how these will evolve over the coming years.

The Labour Market Inventory report analyzed the needs, barriers and opportunities for each of the provinces.  The Nova Scotia report discovered in 2014, 9,200 people were employed in agriculture and 15% of those were made up of foreign workforce.  With that, there were 500 jobs left unfilled which lead to $15 million in lost sales due to labour shortages.  The report projected that in 2025 there will be 11,300 workers required in the agriculture industry.  Between 2014 and 2025, CAHRC anticipated 29% of the workforce will be lost to retirement, creating a labour gap of 3500 people.  Over the ten year forecast period, the most difficult positions to fill will be the managers in agriculture positions and general farm worker positions.  There will also be a gap in the harvesting labourers and nursery and greenhouse workers.

The reasons for the labour shortage varied.  Recruiting employees is often difficult because the jobs are in the rural regions and skill availability is insufficient.  Employee retention has challenges as well, including variability of work hours, quantity of working hours and insufficient compensation.

Prince Edward Island faces a similar situation to what is experienced in Nova Scotia.  Reasons for labour shortage are comparable to those in Nova Scotia, though the industries in each province are somewhat different.  A tool that PEI uses to address the training and skill deficit is through a Farm Technician Apprenticeship Program.   The PEI Farm Apprenticeship Technician program is a designated blue seal trade.  It is a block release module of five weeks each over a two-year program and the applicant needs 1000 hours to enroll.  It was identified that a program in Nova Scotia could model the two-year block release program that covers modules of general farm operation, soils, pesticide application, food and farm safety, basic shop repair, record keeping, communications, and more.

Farm Safety Nova Scotia (FSNS) coordinates a variety of training courses targeted to farmers and farm employees.  Farm Safety Nova Scotia has worked with commodities to address specific safety concerns through courses like grain-bin rescue, Wild Blueberry harvester operator course and tractor operator course.  These courses, along with others that FSNS is involved with, increase competency and thus safety on farms.



  • The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency must work with the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture to implement an apprenticeship program for farm employees and managers.
  • Department of Labour and Advanced Education continue to offer industry specific training for agriculture employees and farmers including WIPSI and Workplace Education courses.
  • Thinkfarm and Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture Extended Learning work with Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture to study short and long term training needs for the agriculture industry.
  • CAHRC benchmark the labour market every five years to understand if improvements are made to the forecast and which issues need to be further addressed.