Becky lives with her husband in Penticton, British Columbia but was raised as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm near Guelph, Ontario. After attending the University of Guelph for a Bachelor of Applied Science, she then pursued a teaching degree. In 2012 Becky received her Masters of Education, where her research focused on experiential education to teach about food, agriculture and the environment.
She combines her passion for agriculture and her training in education in her position as Project and Partnership Strategist with Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.
During her Nuffield studies, Becky will research models of agriculture career education and the collaborative relationships between industry groups, youth development organizations and the formal school system.
Many countries around the world, including Canada, are experiencing a labour shortage in the agri-food sector. Without adequate labour to perform work duties, productivity is reduced, and profitability can be impeded through lost sales or hindered opportunities for expansion.
One potential source of labour is Generation Z (Gen Z), youth born between 1993 and 2011. Gen Z is a viable source for future employees and agri-business entrepreneurs for several reasons:
- They make up 22% of the Canadian population (Statistics Canada 2015)
- They will be entering the workforce over the next 20 years
- Many are looking for entrepreneurial opportunities and a diversity of career options (Sparks & Honey 2015)
There are, however, challenges. Few Gen Zers know about the diversity of careers in agri-food. Many associate agri-food careers ONLY with primary production. Therefore, we must use an edu-marketing approach that focuses on marketing agriculture careers to youth using educational settings and programs. The edu-marketing tactics will build awareness, engagement and commitment to ag careers. The steps are:
Step 1: Increase exposure of the agri-food sector and the diversity of opportunities available to the general population of youth
Step 2: Provide opportunities for youth to engage with careers through experiential learning (e.g. job shadows, co-op, etc.)
Step 3: Introduce mentors and ambassadors who can offer further positive influence to students who show an interest in agri-food careers
The three key players who need to collaborate on edu-marketing of agri-food careers are:
- Schools and Education Organizations
- Agri-food sector (agri-businesses, producer organizations, industry groups, etc.)
- Youth Development Organizations
To fully address the labour shortage in agriculture, we need coordinated collaboration between education (schools & education organizations), youth development organizations, and the agri-food sector. Each stakeholder needs to play an essential role and work with the other(s) to ensure that the best possible programming is offered to Gen Z to encourage and inspire them to pursue careers in agri-food. Collaboration draws on the strengths and resources of each stakeholder, resulting in educational initiatives and programs that excite and engage future agri-food employees.