Food Processing Employer Seeking Innovative Way to Find, Train and Retain New Hires

Bonduelle working with Essential Skills Ontario on new approach to understand skills needed on-the-job Over the next several years, the food processing industry - one of the largest growing sectors in Ontario and the largest manufacturing contributor to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product - will need to fill at least 30,000 new positions. Unfortunately, employers in this sector are struggling to find and retain workers, placing the industry in a precarious position.

Bonduelle - Canada’s leading processor of canned and frozen vegetables – is the embodiment of this problem. Located in the small town of Strathroy in southwestern Ontario, Bonduelle faces stiff competition from local automotive and other large manufacturers in the area in attracting and retaining entry-level workers available to work seasonal hours and rotating shifts. Though Bonduelle offers competitive wages and benefits, the food processing industry is often seen in a less positive light compared to others – resulting in Bonduelle facing a constant struggle in finding workers with the right skills they need and then retaining them after orientation. Many of the new hires are new to the workforce and have little experience in a manufacturing environment or working shifts.

“Most employees either stay and stay for a long time, or don’t stay long at all,” says Jodi Haggith, Human Resources Coordinator at Bonduelle. “While there is very little turnover with full-time employees, new hires are initially hired as seasonal employees. A lot of people we hire realize it’s not a right fit during the training process.”

As part of its Elevate Canada: Raising the Grade on Food Processing initiative, Essential Skills Ontario staff spent two and a half days observing and interviewing over 20 Bonduelle general labourers and process operators to understand the skills involved in their day-to-day work. This process is part of the initiative’s enhanced Job Requirement Approach (JRA), which asks managers and workers about the importance of specific job requirements in terms of the types and levels of skills they use in the workplace. JRAs have already been conducted at five other food processing sites across Ontario, with at least five more sites planned in the coming months. The findings from this approach are informing the training model and curriculum that will be used in phase two of the project, when 250 adults currently receiving social assistance will take part in innovative training at sites across the province.

This training will incorporate an “integrated training” approach, which incorporates vocational skills, industry exposure and the right mix of essential skills. This is the first time a JRA has been tested in Canada and already Bonduelle is benefiting from early results: “Even just with meeting with Essential Skills Ontario over the past few months has really made us rethink the way we interview and the way we train and retain our employees,” says Jodi. “It’s amazing how having an outsider’s perspective on things can make you re-evaluate the way you’ve been doing things.”

Completing the JRAs is the first of several steps in this initiative that will be rigorously evaluated and documented. The hope is that Elevate, if successful, will be replicated in other industries to allow low-skilled adults to be trained faster and more effectively for industries and occupations that are in-demand. For more information on the Elevate Canada initiative, please visit the Elevate website at http://elevate.essentialskillsontario.ca/

News Date: 
Monday, May 26, 2014