What is the FARM Impact Study?
A continuing labour shortage in the agricultural industry and higher rates of unemployment amongst immigrants has provided the basis for a new pilot project being undertaken by a settlement agency in Alberta. The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) has received funding from the Alberta Government to develop a program that prepares permanent residents for employment in the agricultural industry (FARM). The FARM program suggests that new immigrants can play a role in supplementing a labour force that has relied heavily on temporary foreign workers partly because they may enter the agricultural industry as part of a structured integration process, instead of lacking access to one as in the case of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAW). This offers a unique research opportunity to examine the value of such programming in facilitating the integration of permanent newcomers into Canadian society through an industry in demand of workers, as well as to assess its viability as a supplement or alternative to the TFWP and SAWP.
Newcomer participation in the agricultural workforce may hasten their economic integration by virtue of the demand for workers in that sector. In contrast to the situation TFW’s and SAW’s have, new immigrants have access to settlement resources and have themselves invested in staying in Canada for the long term. As such this research can explore how training in such an industry offers earlier opportunities for economic integration, and thus social integration.
The conceptual framework of this research is rooted in the theory of social representations. Social representations are a kind of knowledge that is socially constructed and shared, with a practical purpose and which contributes to building a reality that is common amongst the members of a social group (Jodelet, 1989). This theory makes it possible to shed light on the central trends of the participants’ experiences in the FARM program and its impact on how it facilitates the migrants’ socioeconomic integration into the Canadian workforce. We will use an exploratory research method that will be carried out at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and at The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) in Calgary, Alberta. More specifically the research will examine the impact of the program from two different perspectives: 1) Newcomers and, 2) Industry partners/employers.
Currently, very little research has been conducted to examine agricultural-based training programs for newcomers and their effectiveness in gaining industry focused language and practical skills for employment in the landscaping, horticultural and agricultural industry. Our research intends to answer two questions: (a) To what extent does the FARM program have an impact on the socioeconomic integration of newcomers into the Canadian workforce?; (b) How can the FARM program be scaleable and accessible to more employers, agencies and participants?
This research will explore the following four specific objectives and is directly linked to the emergent themes in our Interview Guides (See Appendix-B and Appendix-C):
- To identify the social representation of the participants’ experiences and challenges related to employment and recruitment.
- To identify the social representations of the participants related to the benefits of the program.
- To describe the social representations of participants’ overall experience with the program and the impact on their socioeconomic integration.
- To identify the social representations of participants related to the continuity, accessibility and scalability of the program.
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