AALP Class 20 Visits Queen’s Park
By Brianna Pitt

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Author: Lauren Kennedy, AALP Class 20

What happens when twenty Aggies, mostly from rural Ontario, embark on the Big City for a few days!? Curiousity, development, leadership, and a little bit of karaoke!

AALP Class 20 was in Toronto for Seminar 3 during a brisk January cold snap – but that didn’t stop us from exploring the agriculture and agri-food offerings of the city.

Seminar 3 kicked off with a little ‘getting to know you’ amongst Class 20, which helped us hone our public speaking skills, while getting comfortable with being open and vulnerable amongst our classmates. Three seminars in, most of us assumed we knew each other, but you’d be surprised how much we don’t work our flying hobbies, or football careers into everyday conversation.

Later that day, instead of being the ones asking the questions for once, Class 20 was on the receiving end by participating in a Soil Health focus group study led by Dr. Laura Van Eerd and the University of Guelph. A topic familiar with much of Class 20, this session allowed participants to share their knowledge of soil health and how to better engage farmers and industry.

Unlike past seminars, Seminar 3 held two offsite days, the first being a trip to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, a first visit to the ‘Pink Palace’ for many in the class. At the Legislature, we heard from Don Valley West MPP and Ontario Liberal Caucus Agriculture critic, Stephanie Bowman, on why agriculture is important to her and her caucus. Class 20 was then greeted enthusiastically by Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs Minister Lisa Thompson, who is an AALP graduate from Class 6. Minister Thompson provided insights into her leadership journey and how our Class should maximize our experience in the program. We also heard from the Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for the Toronto Star, a stalwart member of the Press Gallery and well-known figure in the Legislature. Robert emphasized his support for Canadian agriculture and helped the class better understand how to get agriculture’s good news stories out.

We wrapped up the day by reconvening with GridWorks facilitator, Gavin Robinson, to examine how we have been practicing the skills we learned in Seminar 2.  

On our second day offsite, Class 20 was split up, with half headed to the Ontario Food Terminal and the remainder to Second Harvest. Food Terminal attendees were surprised at the organized chaos of the government-appointed wholesale fruit and produce terminal, while the visit to Second Harvest showed us the importance of food rescue to the reduction of GHG emissions in Canada. As a group, we then visited The Stop Community Food Centre and volunteered some of our time to help with their daily tasks. The Stop runs emergency food access and social service programs, aiming to address the effects of systemic poverty, including food insecurity, social isolation, and unequal access to land.

 Upon our return to the hotel, we were reunited once again with Kelly Ann McKnight and George Pinho from StoneRidge Consulting whom we spent two days with at our inaugural Seminar. Kelly Ann and George led us through our DiSC assessments, and how our core personalities of either Dominance, Influence, Conscientiousness and Steadiness can help us better understand ourselves and those we work with.

 Seminar 3 welcomed the partners and family members of many of our classmates, and we hope they enjoyed learning more about agriculture and how we spend our time at AALP!

Preliminary Findings

Diversity in Key Actors: Collaboration among private sector, local governments, provincial government, and federal government enhances solutions to labour shortages.

  • Titan Trailers: Cultural support boosts newcomer retention and local economy.
  • Dufferin County: Educational-local partnerships impact labour needs.
  • Western Ontario Wardens Caucus: Regional collaboration aids in overcoming labour challenges.
  • Rural Northern Immigration Pilot Programs and Upskill Canada: Innovative approaches to labour and economic growth through permanent residency facilitation and short-cycle training programs, respectively.

Next Steps

Over the next year research will continue to understand how rural workforce development initiatives are assisting rural communities and rural economies. Upcoming research activities will include continue analysis of innovative case studies, create innovative work force case studies, create online map of innovative work force case studies, conduct knowledge mobilization of findings, and conduct in-depth case studies to enhance the understanding and transferability of 2-3 innovative rural labour shortage strategies.

Blog Authors

Paul Sitsofe

Paul Sitsofe

Paul Sitsofe is a dedicated professional with a diverse background in social and community service, academic education, and practical experience. He is currently a Master of Planning, Rural Planning and Development student at the University of Guelph, where he is currently a graduate student research assistant, focusing on rural demographic shifts and innovative workforce development strategies.

Ryan Gibson

Ryan Gibson

Ryan is the Libro Professor in Regional Economic Development at the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph. This chair position was created through an endowment by Libro Credit Union and two University of Guelph donors.

Ryan also serves as the President of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network and a board member of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation. 

Niju Mathews

Niju Mathews

Niju earned his Masters of science in rural planning and development at University of Guelph. As part of the Addressing Labour Shortages Through Newcomer Attraction Project Team, Niji has contributed to research and examination of current labour shortages being experienced in rural Ontario with an aim to identify potential solutions in the form of policy and practice.

For More Information

Please visit www.ruraldev.ca/lsna or contact:

Paul Sitsofe – psitsofe@uoguelph.ca

Niju Mathew – niju@uoguelph.ca

Ryan Gibson – gibsonr@uoguelph.ca

Brianna Pitt

ROI Communication Coordinator

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