MRO Magazine

The driving force behind Canada’s manufacturing future

Youth in food and beverage manufacturing

March 6, 2024 | By EMC

Photo: goodluz / adobe stock

Photo: Gonzalo / adobe stock

Canada’s food and beverage processing industry, like many other industries in the sector, is going through a transformation. A new wave of energy, innovation and creativity is crucial to driving this change. The force that can help drive this change is our youth – the next generation of thinkers, innovators and leaders. Youth are the catalysts to propel the industry into the newly charted territories of Industry 4.0 and sustainable practices, especially in the food and beverage processing industry

With food and beverage being one of Canada’s largest manufacturing industries, it is critical that food and beverage manufacturers align with future industry needs by embracing new technologies, fostering and mentoring young talents pursuing careers in food and beverage processing. This will not only help fill employment shortages today but also help propel progress in key areas.

Investing in the future of food & beverage manufacturing

Both federal and provincial governments are investing in programs to develop manufacturing skills to ensure a robust workforce for the food and beverage processing industry in the future.   For example, with funding from the Government of Canada, Food Processing Skills Canada (FPSC) has offered a program called Achieving Our Workforce Destination: Qualified People, Successful Careers & Competitive Business. The program was designed to enhance the skills and employability of people, as well as improving employers’ capabilities to recruit, onboard, and retain talent.  At the provincial level, an example is Food and Beverage Ontario’s CareersNOW! workforce development initiative, which aims to connect jobseekers and students with employers for career opportunities and advancement.  


In complement, funded programs like EMC’s suite of Work Integrated Learning programs, are targeted to youth and aim to support the next generation of workers with foundational skills training in areas of communication, managing conflict and difficult interactions, effective problem solving and more. These skills are developed at manufacturing facilities alongside work-integrated / on-the-job training for youth. Work integrated learning programs are designed to introduce today’s youth to viable career options within the sector.

EMC is currently offering two national work integrated learning programs, WILWorks Post Secondary and WILWorks Skilled Trades in Advanced Manufacturing. Recently, EMC launched BC Youth In Manufacturing, for manufacturers in British Columbia, and WILWorks Youth in Manufacturing, for Atlantic Canadian manufacturers. These programs create pathways for youth to enter the manufacturing sector.

By providing students and young professionals with access to work experiences and education in the fundamentals of manufacturing, these initiatives can support a well-rounded workforce of industry professionals capable of driving innovation in today’s global market, both now and in the future. Succession planning in the industry is critical, as retirement is imminent among many of the workers in food and beverage processing. According to research by FPSC, the food and beverage industry is estimated to require almost 50 per cent of the current workforce between 2023 and 2030.

Photo: goodluz / adobe stock

Embracing the digital age in food & beverage manufacturing 

In Plant Magazine’s 2023 Advanced Manufacturing Outlook Report, sponsored by EMC, 89 per cent of companies cite a lack of skilled workforce as a reason for not investing in technology. With their digital savvy, youth can help implement cutting-edge technologies and streamline operations.  

Today’s youth are digital natives. Digital skills like data analytics, coding, machine learning and cybersecurity are becoming increasingly important in food and beverage processing. Through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP), eligible farm and food processing businesses will get help in investing in cutting-edge technologies like IoT, 3D printing, and robotics in manufacturing processes to help streamline operations, increase efficiency and reduce environmental impact. Youth can help spearhead the implementation of these technologies, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative approaches to problem-solving within the food and beverage processing industry. 

Encouraging a culture of digital literacy and continuous learning includes:

• Providing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling.

• Fostering a collaborative environment where ideas can be freely shared.

• Encouraging the exploration of new technologies.

In this scenario, youth are uniquely positioned to assist the current workforce in adopting new technologies, helping food and beverage manufacturers overcome the skills gaps that, if left unchecked, will inevitably widen as this transition progresses.

Fostering future leaders through mentorship

Establishing robust mentorship programs within the food and beverage processing industry can facilitate the transfer of knowledge from seasoned professionals to the leaders of tomorrow. This strategy promotes a culture of continuous learning and growth, ensuring that invaluable industry insights are passed on to the next generation.

In the rapidly evolving manufacturing world, where technology and innovation are at the forefront, mentorship programs are more vital than ever. These programs bridge skills gaps, foster innovation and enhance employee retention.

EMC recognizes mentorship’s critical role in shaping the manufacturing sector’s future. EMC is actively investing in the next generation of manufacturing leaders by offering mentorship training for employers, helping upskill current employees so organizations can see success in fostering youth’s careers in the broad manufacturing sector. As part of the CareersNOW! workforce development initiative, Food and Beverage Ontario also creates and facilitates mentorship training, specifically for employers in the food and beverage processing industry. 

In summary, the role of young people in shaping the future of food and beverage manufacturing in Canada cannot be underestimated. By empowering them through education, embracing technology, focusing on sustainability and fostering leadership through mentorship, the food and beverage processing industry can ensure a prosperous and innovative future.   

Empower the next generation of manufacturing 

leaders with EMC 

• Shape the Future: Collaborate with young talents, infusing your operations with fresh ideas and perspectives.

• Build a Skilled Workforce: Develop the skills and expertise needed for tomorrow’s manufacturing landscape.

• Strengthen Community Ties: Play a pivotal role in creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged individuals, women, and Indigenous youth.


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