New program introduces youth to agri-food careers


Protein Industries Canada (PIC) announced an investment Friday into a program that will introduce youth in Kindergarten through Grade 12 to the career opportunities available to them in the plant-protein, agri-food, and digital agriculture sectors.

As part of a $2 million co-investment with the Enterprise Machine Intelligence & Learning Initiative (EMILI), national STEM outreach charity Actua, and Agriculture in the Classroom Canada (AITC-C), the project is intended to help address the agriculture industry’s growing need for a skilled workforce.

In particular, it is going to focus on building capacity and fostering a competitive business environment within the plant-protein sector as Canada works toward positioning itself as a global leader in the supply of plant-based ingredients, food, and feed.

Targeted to reach 69,000 youth over three years, the program will engage youth in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, with a particular focus on Indigenous and other under-represented groups. It will be based on Actua’s existing STEM and digital skills programming, and will increase knowledge of career opportunities in the agri-food sector, and be delivered by post-secondary students from colleges and universities in Actua’s network across the prairies.

Bill Gruel, chief executive officer of PIC, says Canada has the potential to become a global leader in plant protein, and strengthening and maintaining that reputation requires a knowledgeable, skilled workforce now, and into the future.

“By teaching students about the opportunities available to them in our sector, EMILI, Actua, and AITC-C are helping fill that need. They’re helping teach a new generation that our sector is filled with potential, and that it’s one where they can flourish in whatever capacity best suits them,” Gruel explains.

Because of its reach across the agriculture industry and its potential to raise high awareness of the job opportunities available to the future generation, the project has gained support from several companies with pre-existing PIC technology projects. Businesses that have expressed support for the project include the following:

  • Avena Foods
  • Aberhart Farms
  • Roquette
  • Exceed Grain Marketing
  • Lucent BioScience
  • Verdient Foods Inc.
  • Ingredion Inc.
  • Botaneco.

The project is the first to be announced under PIC’s Capacity Building Program umbrella. EMILI, Actua and AITC-C are together investing $600,000 into the project, with PIC investing the remaining $1.4 million.

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