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Closing the skills gap

January 3, 2020  By Mari-Len De Guzman

If a recent Canadian labour market report is any indication, the aquaculture industry might be bracing for a shortage of skilled workers over the next 10 years, which could translate to millions of dollars in potential revenue loss.

The Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has released its labor market report titled, “How Labour Challenges Will Shape the Future of Agriculture: Agriculture Forecast to 2029,” indicating an overall projection of labor shortages across the Canadian agriculture sector. For aquaculture, the report is anticipating a shortfall of nearly 500 jobs over the next 10 years, as 36 per cent of the aquaculture workforce is expected to retire during the same period.

Skills shortage challenges is not exclusive to the aquaculture sector, however. Over the last several years, alarm bells have been ringing across many industries as baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – enter retirement age. Analysts have projected baby boomers will be retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day over the next several years.

The consequences of a significant skills shortage can have to the company’s bottom-line is not negligible. In 2018, the aquaculture sector lost $34 million in sales as a consequence of labor shortages, according to the CAHRC.


Facing a labor shortage is one thing; a skills deficit is another matter. Particularly in the aquaculture sector – where specific expertise are required and can literally spell the difference between life and death for farmed species – increasing the number of the workforce alone will not be sufficient. Addressing the skills deficit challenge, ensuring that highly-skilled aquaculture workers are entering the labor market, is pivotal.

There is a treasure trove of knowledge and skills accumulated (and accumulating) in this relatively young aquaculture sector. Many of this sector’s pioneers are still in active duty, or at least, semi-active. Fish farming, particularly in the hatchery side, seems to be an attractive proposition for young professionals. There is a lot of knowledge that can be transferred to these young cohorts by their more senior counterparts.

Putting in place a formalized and systematic succession planning program across the organization will ensure that valuable production and operational knowledge are passed on appropriately and effectively. Mentorship of young workers will be key as well.

Skills shortage is a real phenomenon and it can have a negative impact on the overall productivity and revenue of the organization. Time to think about succession planning to ensure your continued success.

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