Renewed funding for the Next Gen Agriculture Mentorship Program
January 5, 2021, 1:34 pm
Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan are announcing $200,000 in renewed funding for the Next Gen Agriculture Mentorship Program (Next Gen), a Saskatchewan initiative delivered by Canadian Western Agribition (CWA). The funding will take the program into 2023, allowing for two additional cycles of mentorship matches.
The objective of the program is to develop young leaders and prepare them to take on active roles in industry leadership, governance and efforts to build public trust. The program does this by pairing each successful applicant with an established member of the agriculture industry.
It serves as part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s effort to increase engagement between experienced professionals and the next generation of industry leaders. This renewed funding will allow 16 new mentees to enter the program over the next two years.
“Canada’s young agricultural professionals and producers are key to the future success of our sector,” said federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.
“Our government is working hard to ensure our youth have access to the necessary training and opportunities that will allow them to develop their skills to become leaders in the agriculture industry. By ensuring they are equipped for the future, we can build a stronger, more prosperous agriculture industry in Saskatchewan and across the country.”
This year, eight applicants will be selected and paired with a mentor for an 18-month mentorship experience beginning in February 2021. Applicants should have clear developmental goals and exhibit strong leadership potential. More information about the program is available online at www.saskatchewan.ca/CAP.
“It’s exciting to watch the Next Gen Agriculture Mentorship program grow as it has over the last two years,” CWA President Chris Lees said. “To see what the mentees are getting out of the program and the connections they’re making is something CWA is proud to be a part of.”
Next Gen is funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $388 million investment in strategic initiatives for Saskatchewan agriculture by the federal and provincial governments.
“The agriculture sector is an important driver of economic activity in our province,” Agriculture Minister David Marit said. “This program offers mentees new opportunities for knowledge sharing and network expansion while ensuring they have the resources they need to contribute to our thriving industry.”
The mentorship program gives young people involved in the Ag industry an opportunity to learn and develop their ability from a governance perspective as well as helps them create relationships with those already in the industry says Marit.
“We’ve been doing the mentorship program for a couple years now and it’s in partnership with the Canadian Western Agribition,” said Marit. “They kind of administer and house the program and so we just signed a two-year agreement at $100,000 per year. What we do is, we take young kids from around the province that are interested in governance—where they want to be on commissions and looking Ag policy and things in that realm—and we seek out mentors—mentors can be from right across Canada.
“We do eight of them per year, so we put the eight mentees with a mentor for about 18 months. With the situation we’re in right now, it’s different, but the first year we did it they would go to conferences and sort of work things out and learn about the process that way. A great example of one is the SaskCanola council had elections for board members just last month and one of the young folks that was in the mentorship program—Codie Nagy fro Ogema—actually got elected to the board.
“It helps them so they’re not going onto these boards and commissions not knowing what it’s like and what their role is,” Marit said. “It really helps them to become a better board member and give them the experience that other professional people have had. The nice thing about it is that it’s really a one-to-one so they learn from very smart people who have been involved in Ag policy and governance. It’s important that we hear the young folks and their ideas around Ag and it trains these young people to really get engaged in the whole Ag policy and governance structure. This is something that I’ve never had and we’re trying to develop that next generation.”
Codie Nagy stumbled onto the mentorship program and it’s been a huge help to him developing his professional career and he credits it to being elected to the SaskCanola board. He says it allowed him to get in-depth knowledge on Ag governance helped him network with the most experienced members of the industry.
“I just found it on the internet when I was googling mentorship programs in Saskatchewan when I came across it,” said Nagy. “I was part of the first cohort, so that was around November of 2018. So I sent in an application on a whim hoping to hear something back and I got a phone call in February saying I’d been accepted.
“It was phenomenal. The amount of people you meet and get to interact with through a program like this is amazing. Before Covid caused the cancellation of the conferences, I was able to attend a fair amount of them and the amount of people I met through my mentor—Alanna Koch—was phenomenal. In my personal experience with the program, the networking capability is the biggest thing. The team does a great job rounding up the right mentors and pairing them up with the right mentees. So for me with Alanna, the biggest takeaway was the amount of people she knows and the experience she has—she was able to unload some of that information onto me,” he said.
“Getting elected to the SaskCanola Board was absolutely a byproduct of the mentorship program. It connected me with Alanna, whose husband is Gerry Hertz and he’s a director for SaskCanola. Talking with him it kind of piqued my interest a little more and gave me the confidence to put my name out there.”