Growing talent during a labour shortage

Melissa Parkinson always knew she would end up working in agriculture.

The member of the BASF team in Regina, Saskatchewan grew up on a dairy farm near Brantford, Ontario. However, she did not necessarily picture herself half-way across the country.

So, how did this graduate of the University of Guelph arrive where she did?

In her senior year, she applied to be part of BASF Canada’s Professional Development Program, which resulted in her landing a job with the company that was anything but ordinary.

It provided on the job training, bridging the skills gap between university and her current role.

Parkinson says it really got her career off to a great start

“I really learned a lot in the two years I was in the program,” said Parkinson.

“I think the main thing of the knowledge gap that this program provided was that transition from being a student to joining the workforce. Right off the bat, I learned how to work in a corporate setting, learning how to work in a large organization like BASF, it really benefited me in the long run.”

As Canada’s agriculture industry deals with a labour and talent shortage, BASF Canada continues to see growth in the program they started five years ago.

It has been integrated into five key universities across the country, helping by providing relevant, targeted skills to the graduates who are selected into the program.

Jon Sweat is the Vice President of Agricultural Solutions Canada.

He says the program has allowed them to find great talent and connect them with appropriate roles.

“What that’s done is really helped us by allowing these individuals to try different tasks or different jobs within the company and work both internally and externally before placing them into permanent roles within the organization,” says Sweat.

It was by cycling through these roles that eventually brought Parkinson to Regina.

She says the biggest surprise she found in the program was its flexibility.

“It really was not a cookie cutter program where everyone has the same roles and experience, it was really catered on what I was interested in and what I wanted to learn about.”

Sweat says it has helped retention in their company.

“Because people are more comfortable and better placed when they come through it, retention rates are actually right around 90 per cent, which is really quite an accomplishment, especially given the newness of the employees coming out of the university system.”

The program has now seen 22 people go through it in the five years it has been existence helping BASF in a time when many companies are hard pressed to find the talent they need to fill roles.