Students studying agriculture may be hired faster than students studying other life science degrees.
The 2015 Sector Report, released by Life Sciences Ontario (LSO), says the unemployment rate among science grads going into the private sector sits at about 18.9 per cent.
“As the government becomes more fiscally restrained, the opportunities in the public sector become difficult to get,” says Jason Field, LSO president and CEO.
And while this may be true for other life science sectors including pharmaceuticals, research testing and medical equipment testing, it may not be the same for the agricultural industry.
The LSO report says the government needs to fund private life sciences firms in order to hire more recent grads, but students at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) have no issues finding work in both the private and public sectors.
“Students in our program report back to us consistently [saying] that they have no trouble finding employment,” says OAC Associate Dean Dr. Rene Van Acker.
The OAC 2011 graduate survey found a significant gap between grads and the demand, showing there were three jobs to every student graduating.
“Students in our food and agricultural program [are] typically thinking about working in private industry,” Van ACker says. “For our sector, it doesn’t grow as rapidly as others but it also didn’t crash in 2008. It grows at a steady rate.”
The LSO report says 63 per cent of private sector firms have ten or less employees.
This includes Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT), a private sector company that operates as a two-person team without hiring recent grads, that could potentially benefit from receiving government funding.
But that doesn’t mean recent grads of agricultural programs aren’t getting jobs.
With OAC being recognized as Canada’s largest and most renowned agricultural college, their students are looked as a commodity.
Van Acker says their biggest issue is getting more people into the program and staying to complete a masters or PhD.
“Once they graduate, they’re off making really good money. Why would they come back?” says Van Acker. “I don’t blame them.”
And while the LSO’s report says the issue for private sectors is a lack of government funding, the public sector also faces challenges when it comes to hiring grads.
“The problem [the grads] face is that people aren’t retiring yet,” says Vicki Reay, health and applied technology career advisor at Humber College.
She says the nursing grads are up against a hot and cold hiring system that doesn’t always pick up large batches of students because the older, more experienced workers are still present.
And while Van Acker says there’s more opportunity for their grads to work in the Greater Toronto Area, Reay says many of their medical grads have to leave the city in order to find work.
This may mean that while the private sector is one of the most profitable areas but least invested one, the issue of hiring new grads is more field based rather than industry based.