Smart Prosperity Institute research finds that government, industry, and educational institutions must play leading roles to ensure Manitoba and Saskatchewan capture the plant-based protein (PBP) opportunity

The PBP industry can benefit communities and workers, but governments, industry, and educational institutions must act now to address challenges that put the future of this industry at risk. 

OTTAWA, Feb. 06, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As the global population grows and consumers look for diverse and affordable protein sources, the demand for plant-based protein (PBP) will continue to rise. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a history and reputation for growing PBP crops (pulses, soybeans, and canola) and their contributions to the emerging PBP industry could help that industry add over $25 billion to Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) throughout the next decade. This is a major opportunity to use PBP production to increase value-added agriculture for these provinces, especially their rural communities, to attract investment, as well as to establish high-quality careers in agriculture and agri-food. 

But how prepared is the current workforce to support the growth of this opportunity? And what steps are needed to support workers to fill these jobs?

A team of researchers at the Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI), in partnership with the Future Skills Centre (FSC), dove into these questions, and have released their findings in three reports that highlight the main growth challenges facing the agriculture and agri-food sectors in capturing the full potential of the PBP opportunity, including:

  • Severe labour shortages from a lack of entry-level workers and large waves of retirements.
  • Changes in workers skills needs as farm consolidation increases and new technology emerges and evolves.
  • Inadequacy of social infrastructure, including affordable housing, transportation, and childcare options.

“While the challenges are complex, they are solvable with careful planning, thoughtful collaboration, and purposeful action from stakeholder groups. If the solutions identified are implemented, Canada will be well-positioned to be a global leader in the plant-based protein industry,” says Hem Dholakia, Senior Research Associate of the Skills Program at SPI.

From this research comes 13 priority recommendations for governments, industry, and educational institutions to ensure these Prairie provinces, their rural communities, and agriculture and agri-food workers are well-equipped to succeed. Four key ones include:

  1. The federal government should work with provincial ministries to implement sectoral or region-specific work permits for in-demand industries and communities.
  2. Provincial governments should improve the ease of immigrating to Canada for potential workers by creating clearer pathways to permanent residency.
  3. Industry should work with municipal governments to create support programs and design better infrastructure for affordable housing, transportation, and childcare options.
  4. Educational institutions should expand program options and include flexible delivery methods in certificates, diplomas, and training programs at colleges and other educational institutions to include in-province programs for critically needed skills in the PBP industry.

“Investing in the plant-based protein industry isn't just about economic growth; it's about securing the future of our rural communities and the livelihoods of our workers. If governments, industry, and educational institutions can unite to prioritize workforce development and upskilling, we can cultivate a thriving and inclusive plant-based protein industry in the Prairies,” says Pedro Barata, Executive Director, Future Skills Centre. 

If industry, all levels of government, and educational institutions can work together to attract, train, retain, and support workers, the reward could be a $25 billion industry centred in the Prairies, creating jobs and prosperity for generations to come.

The three reports are available online at &éines-Végétales-Emplois-Compétences-Besoins

For more information or to schedule an interview please contact: 
Rebecca Babcock, Smart Prosperity Institute 

About Smart Prosperity Institute
Smart Prosperity Institute is a national research network and policy think tank based at the University of Ottawa. We deliver world-class research and work with public and private partners to advance practical policies and market solutions for a stronger, cleaner economy. 

About Future Skills Centre
The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to driving innovation in skills development so that everyone in Canada can be prepared for the future of work. We are funded by the Government of Canada's Future Skills Program.