Operation Ag Careers to launch in 2016

An on-line resource encourages Canadian Armed Forces retirees to eye a second career in agriculture

A pilot project being launched early this year aims to put some muscle behind the notion of farming with ‘military precision.’

Operation Ag Careers is targeting the thousands of men and women retiring from the armed forces every year as potential recruits for the thousands of jobs available in agriculture.

The joint project of the Canadian Association of Agri Retailers (CAAR) and the Canadian Agricultural Resource Council (CAHRC) wants to ensure retiring military personnel know there are great careers awaiting them in agriculture — and that having a background in agriculture isn’t necessarily a prerequisite.

The online resource is designed to help retiring army, navy and air force personnel explore new agricultural careers and match individual’s skills to any one of the tens of thousands of jobs available in the sector.

An estimated 5,000 men and women retire each year from the military, Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers CEO and president Delaney Ross Burtnack told a recent panel on agricultural labour hosted by the Manitoba Farm Writers and Broadcasters Association.

These aren’t people in their later lives. They are young persons with highly transferable skills and many productive years still ahead of them, she said.

“They’re retiring after 10 or 15 or 20 years in the military and are typically between ages 28 and 35. They’re looking to have full second careers.”

Meanwhile, the agricultural sector badly needs these highly trained individuals. Statistics from Ag More Than Ever project as many as 50,000 jobs to open up in the agricultural sector over the next five years, Ross Burtnack said, adding the spectre of human resource shortages looms large in the minds of CAAR members.

In the lead-up to the launch of Operation Ag Careers, Ross Burtnack has met with hundreds of potential candidates.

It’s to get them thinking about the jobs agriculture offers in areas such as mechanics, marketing, training, sales and communications and the prospects for a meaningful career in these fields.

“We share that our future in agriculture is promising and so is theirs for a second career,” she said.

Those meetings also dispel the commonly held idea among many in the military that they should have a background in agriculture first.

The most significant hurdle this initiative faces is helping potential candidates get past the idea a career in agriculture is only about farming, Burtnack said.

“That’s been a restricting factor for them,” she said. “This concept of being anything other than a farmer in agriculture is fairly new to them.”

The emphasis in these meetings has been that agriculture is a broad field that needs people with a wide diversity of skills and experience and that employers will train the candidates that have the right mix.

Meanwhile, the “relocation factor” is bound to be another issue, said other speakers on the ag labour panel.

That’s already become a major issue identified by those hiring, said Laurel Hyde, associate consultant at Scott Wolfe Management, a Headingley-based wealth management and consulting firm.

“Candidates may be ready for a change… but relocating has become a major issue,” she said. “It’s becoming a really challenging factor.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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