HomeIndustryLabour Challenges Persist for N.S. Seafood Processors

Labour Challenges Persist for N.S. Seafood Processors

An aging workforce, the ability to fill entry-level positions and COVID-19 have seafood processors in Nova Scotia looking for creative ways to recruit employees.

“Labour shortages are a growing concern for numerous members of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance,” said executive director Leo Muise.

“Additional workers are often needed when businesses expand production, existing employees leave, or during a seasonal influx of products. It has been a number of years since a shortage of workers has occurred in some regions of the province. COVID-19 has accelerated the problem based on workplace limitations, travel restrictions for out-of-province workers and fewer international students. There was also the issue of industry having to compete in some cases with the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).”

Muise said the Alliance has been working closely for some time with the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council and the provincial government to promote the merits of the industry to Nova Scotia youth and experienced workers. 

“We also work closely with our colleagues in the other Maritime provinces to help bring temporary foreign workers (TFW) to the business that require additional seasonal workers,” he said. “While each business must submit an application separately for TFW, several companies have worked together during COVID-19 to provide collective transportation and isolation for the workers as required by our public health departments.”

Lisa Fitzgerald, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council, said although Nova Scotia hasn’t been as dependent on TFW as much as New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, “we are seeing more plants exploring the option and thinking of moving in this direction. A lot of times it depends on the location of the plant and what is traditional in that area. Some plants have been good with retaining the same workforce for years, but as that workforce begins to age, it is questioned where the replacement workers will come from. Succession planning is critical.”

Fitzgerald said production operations such as seafood processing and aquaculture have faced some challenges over the years. 

“Entry-level positions are becoming harder to fill and employers have been looking at creative ways to recruit,” said Fitzgerald.

“There are many factors that can affect filling these positions such as location of the operation, demographics, image of the job, competing with other sectors, availability of social programs.”

The Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council (NSFSC)has been working with employers for a number of years to help improve human resource planning and offer free HR support to assist in retention and attraction of labour, said Fitzgerald.

“We have set up some promotional campaigns with the existing workforce and administer an employment website to post available jobs — Fishjobs.ca.

The NSFSC also delivers a number of training programs and resources such as leadership recruitment, strategies to improve marketing and quality of seafood products, human resources workbook training modules and serves on the Transport Canada Ad Hoc Committee, Marine Personnel Regulations and the Nova Scotia Community College Program Advisory Committee for Fisheries Training.

Fitzgerald said a number of companies participate in the training programs offered by the fisheries sector council.

“We promote and encourage others to participate as well,” she said. “We are here to support the industry and will design programs that will best benefit the individual employer.  There is no one solution so we try to keep that in mind when planning initiatives.”

Muise said as the population ages, “I feel that expanding the number of working residents in rural and coastal areas will turn out to be even more of a challenge. Increasing the workforce will eventually depend on increased immigration to our rural areas.”