Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson has committed $10 million to address the labour shortage in Canada’s agriculture sector.
The $10 million will support the development of the Prairie Innovation Centre at Assiniboine Community College. The proposed centre is expected to triple the number of students in ACC agriculture programs from 300 to 900.
If all goes according to plan, in a few years ACC will train hundreds of more students for jobs in Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industries.
“I hope (the impact) is going to be significant,” said Stefanson, who announced the $10 million investment Jan. 17 at Ag Days, a trade show held every winter in Brandon.
“We know the importance of the ag industry in Manitoba and this will provide (the) necessary labour force that we need moving forward.”
ACC is located in Brandon and has satellite campuses in other communities in Manitoba. The college already offers training in agribusiness, for agricultural equipment technicians, sustainable food systems and other ag-related courses.
For the last two years, ACC has been raising funds to build the Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. The proposed facility will include programming in robotics, industrial automation, food science technology, food processing technology and other courses.
‘The Prairie Innovation Centre is Assiniboine’s vision for the future of agriculture training and a Manitoba-made response to labour market gaps in the industry,” says the ACC website.
“By creating an enhanced agricultural training capacity, the centre will enable the agriculture sector to reach its full potential as an economic driver in the Canadian and Manitoban economy.”
The college has already raised $16.5 million from private donors to build the new centre, which has an estimated price tag of $65 million.
The $10 million from the province will be used for planning and design.
“This is what’s required to get the final design, so we can get to tender and have it (constructed),” said Assiniboine president Mark Frison, who joined Stefanson at Ag Days for the funding announcement.
“We’re still looking for the federal government to make a major contribution…. And the province will make its capital contribution.”
Frison said the design phase could be completed by the fall.
Once that is done, construction would probably take about 24 months, which means the Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture could open in late 2025 or early 2026.