Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): Western Hog Journal
Publication Date: July 14, 2011
Reference: Summer 2008


Over the last few years, the availability of skilled labour, or indeed any labour at all, has been an increasing challenge faced by the Alberta pork industry.  The only solution for most producers is to recruit foreign workers, but the process is long and cumbersome, resulting in a delay of up to 12 months before a new employee arrives.  Alberta Pork has been working with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD) and Service Canada since the Fall of 2007 to address producer concerns over this issue.


“As with all the livestock industries, the pork industry’s success is vitally dependent on experienced managers and technicians as well as inexperienced people who wish to pursue a career caring for pigs,” says Stuart McKie, Policy Specialist with Alberta Pork. The lack of available employees in Alberta is not a crisis unique to the pork industry, he notes. “It has come to the point where businesses are cutting back their hours of operation due to a lack of staff. Unfortunately, the livestock industry does not have this as an option except to close its doors completely. Without a dependable labour supply, production units can suffer either in productivity or possibly compromise animal welfare – two unacceptable solutions to this crisis.”


The main delay is the time taken to obtain a Labour Market Opinion or LMO, a prerequisite to hiring a foreign worker. Applications to the Foreign Worker Recruitment Branch of Service Canada have been taking up to 30 weeks to process due to the large numbers received – over 80,000 applications over the last 12 months.  However, more recently, processing times have been reduced to about half that time.  Following discussions with Service Canada, it has agreed to review applications from producers who find themselves in a crisis situation with regard to labour.  “The process involves Alberta Pork handling completed LMO applications from producers,” explains Stuart McKie.  “They are then checked to ensure applications are correct and complete prior to forwarding them to Service Canada, providing a means of ‘quality control’, so that all applications are of the required standard.”


The applications are prioritized according to their urgency, with non-urgent applications going into the regular Service Canada administration system and urgent applications being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  Bernie Peet of Pork Chain Consulting Ltd has been contracted to assist with this project and is carrying out the day-to-day work on behalf of Alberta Pork.  Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development has provided funding assistance. “Producers are encouraged to plan ahead and apply for an LMO in plenty of time, even if they don’t need a worker immediately,” stresses McKie. “The LMO is valid for six months and there is no fee to pay, so it’s best to have one tucked away for a rainy day.”


With a number of producers going out of business over the past year, some foreign workers have needed help to find new employers, although this still requires an LMO to be obtained because work visas are specific to the employer, the employee and the job.  “There’s no shortage of people wanting to employ a worker that’s already here because it’s a quicker process,” says Bernie Peet. “However, the waiting time for an LMO has been the sticking point, but, working with Service Canada, we have been able to rush these through so that the foreign worker has not been left without a job or had to leave the country.”  Visa applications are processed at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) at Vegreville, which is currently taking about a month, he notes.



The second part of the Alberta Pork project is to establish a “database” of foreign workers that is available to producers so that they can select suitable individuals.  This is being done by attending overseas Job Fairs, interviewing potential candidates and selecting the best for consideration by producers.  In April, Murray Roeske, Alberta Pork’s Field Services Specialist and Bernie Peet took part in a three-day job fair organized by AARD and held in the city of Manila, Philippines.  Marvin Salomons and Scott Dundas of AARD coordinated the event, which included three other employers from the food processing industry.  More than 1,400 Philippine job seekers attended the venue. Food processing employers interviewed 904 qualified candidates and made 241 job offers on-site. A total of 157 selected job applicants were interviewed on behalf of Alberta pork producers by Peet and Roeske over the three days. “The qualifications of these potential employees were found to be excellent, with a majority of them having a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture degree or are Veterinarians,” comments Murray Roeske.  “As English is the second language in the Philippines, all of the interviews were conducted in English and therefore, on-farm communications should not be a problem.”  Bernie and Murray returned to Alberta with 111 potential resumes and these are now available for review by producers.


Assisting the process in the Philippines was a recruitment agency called Golden Horizon, which has developed a good working relationship with Philippine government organizations and the Canadian Embassy in Manila.  This has helped with processing times for visa applications and working with this company has also proved very cost effective in the applicant selection process.  Once a candidate has been selected, Golden Horizon ensures that the process of obtaining the work visa goes as quickly as possible, shortening the time taken to get a worker into Canada.



Further job fairs, in Mexico and Europe, will be attended in the near future, in order to maintain and develop a pool of potential workers for the industry.  One objective of these overseas missions is to understand the processes involved in obtaining a work visa, especially the potential hold-ups, with the objective of reducing processing times. This involves contact with the Canadian Embassy and organizations in the country being visited that have an influence on the process. “We want to raise our profile and name recognition as a responsible employer, while working to make the process as efficient as possible,” explains Stuart McKie. 


If you would like more information about the Foreign Worker Project or help with recruiting a worker from overseas, please contact Stuart McKie on (780) 491-3527 or Bernie Peet on (403) 782-3776.


Alberta Pork gratefully acknowledges the assistance and financial support for this project given by AARD and especially the help given by Marvin Salomons, Scott Dundas, Alan Dooley and Ab Barrie.


Photo captions:


1. Registration-1 – A throng of hopefuls waiting to register at the job fair in Manila


2. Murray Roeske – Murray Roeske of Alberta Pork interviews a candidate at the job fair

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