New partnership promises to support newcomer community amid workforce challenges

Food and Beverage Manitoba is proud to announce its historic partnership with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce CODE Initiative. As two member-based organizations, the vision of supporting business leaders navigating their unique inclusion and diversity paths was placed above all else.

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and Food & Beverage Manitoba have collaborated on member benefits across organizations to ensure more businesses in our community are getting the support they need to foster safe work environments for employees of all backgrounds, and retain the talent they deserve.

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s Newcomer Employment Hub (part of their CODE programming) is now available to FABMb members through a unique program sponsorship model.  FABMb members gain access to the Hub along with other CODE resources and programming via this progressive partnership and show of dedication to equity and inclusion by the Winnipeg Chamber. The Chamber, along with their CODE advisory committee and coalition, have invested significant resources, time, and emotional labour into CODE and FABMb is honoured to support that work.  

“CODE stands for Commitment to Opportunity, Diversity and Equity and it’s something that we’re extremely proud to bring to our membership here,” says Sarah Schwendemann, Director of Operations and Strategic Partnership for Food & Beverage Manitoba.

“At FABMb, we have some IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) programming and training, and now together with CODE, we’re creating a comprehensive range of resources and knowledge for our members. This will take the form of articles, videos, training, information sessions, webinars; all helping our members in workforce and employment challenges, everything from diversity and emotional leadership training to creating safe inclusive workspaces and training rooted in cultural sensitivity.”

“Through these programs, one of our aims is to match skilled people from underrepresented communities with opportunities in the food and beverage manufacturing industry,” she says.

The sector is currently facing unprecedented labour challenges including talent recruitment and retention, upskilling issues, and an aging workforce.

Michael Mikulak, Executive Director of Food & Beverage Manitoba feels that today’s workforce expects more from its employers and will choose a job where they feel included and safe from cultural stereotypes. “We have the opportunity to unlock the power of food to build community, heal the planet, and drive economic growth,” he says.

There is a real drive to help employers, especially in this sector, to develop workforces that resemble the communities in which they operate by hiring from a diverse group of underemployed people while providing a safe working environment.

Sanjana Vijayann, director of diversity and inclusion at the Chamber, says most immigrants to Manitoba have a bachelor’s degree while 30 per cent have a Masters degree. The one thing many of them are lacking is on-the-ground experience in Manitoba. That doesn’t, however, mean they don’t have the necessary skills.

Underrepresented people in the food and beverage industry include folks with additional accessibility needs, immigrants and newcomers, women and girls, people of racial diversity, members of minority religions and the LGBTQIA+ community, all of whom face layered barriers to employment, including financial barriers, racism, language, culture, sexism, Islamophobia, and more.

Schwendemann says that one of Food & Beverage Manitoba’s primary mandates is to guide employers to unlock the power of a diverse work force in a way that puts community safety first.  

“It’s one of the largest employers in Manitoba and we have many opportunities in front-line production work as well as product and business development, marketing, transportation and logistics and quality assurance,” she says.

One of the many challenges is awareness of the food and beverage manufacturing industry, which is why she also wants to maximize the number of career pathway presentations she does with community organizations.  There is a lot of missed opportunity to engage with communities who may not even be aware of what career pathways are available.  

Vijayann said the Chamber decided to partner with FABMb because the sector has been severely impacted by COVID-19 for three years and continues to experience talent shortages.

A Food & Beverage Manitoba membership survey in 2021 found 70 per cent of business leaders felt diversity, equity and inclusion was a top priority. Attracting and recruiting talent was said to be a top challenge.

The Chamber has four programs designed to help, including an online resource hub, featuring easy-to-use policy templates and tools; CODE events featuring learning around diversity, equity, and inclusion; a CODE coalition of nearly 100 organizations that have committed publicly to diversity, equity and inclusion and report annually on their progress; and a newcomer employment hub which connects job seekers and employers.

“We are providing streamlined access to talent and supporting the successful retention of newcomers to ensure inclusive organizations. That will ultimately have an impact on retention,” Vijayann says.

And these resources are now available to Food and Beverage Manitoba members as well. 

“We share CODE’s online resources on our website and we communicate relevant training and information sessions to our members,” says Schwendemann. “We want to make access to all this amazing programming easily available for our members.”

“Through partnerships such as these, we want to make the food and beverage industry a viable, inclusive, and safe place to work.”

Food & Beverage Manitoba members who are not currently members of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce will find CODE event registrations directly on their training and events page or can email sarahs@foodbeveragemb.cato register with member pricing. Sanjana or Sarah can also be emailed with any questions regarding access to the Newcomer Employment Hub.