There's a skills gap in the local agri-business sector and the Leamington Chamber of Commerce is eager to eliminate it.

A new report suggests the formation of an Agri-Business Centre of Excellence to train today's labour force for the future needs of the sector.

Results are in from a feasibility study on the greenhouse industry and the report is clear, according to the report author Denise Ghanam, of Ghanam Consulting Inc.

“We have jobs in the agribusiness sector, but people without the right skills to fill them," says Ghanam.

Ghanam spent the past year compiling the report, funded through a trillium grant to identify the skills gap and find some potential solutions to shore it up.

The study identifies 14 skilled jobs within the sector that local agri-employers have a hard time filling, including maintenance techs, growers and crop scouts, quality techs and millwrights.

“Finding people with those skill sets to work in this sector is a huge challenge for employers," says Ghanam.

The findings point to three recommendations, phased in over the next two years.

Step one is a series of short pilot projects from now to next spring to up-skill current employees.

The next step is the creation of a post-secondary diploma program for a greenhouse technician with an internship component that would require a post-secondary partner.

The final step is more of a leap.

“To look at the idea of creating a training centre of excellence that could do secondary, post-secondary as well as the upskilling of employees," says Ghanam.

She says there is interest from employers and post-secondary institutions but bviously funding is a challenge.

Ghanam hopes surrounding municipalities will take a leading role to implement the recommendations.

Leamington mayor John Paterson says this conversation has been taking place for more than a decade.

“All those job shortages, we knew about back then,” says Paterson. “But thanks to this trillium grant, you’ve been able to put it into hard factual comment."

Paterson says that gives the municipality a tool, when asking the schools or government for buy-in.