New report indicates Prairies face bio-economy talent shortage – especially in agri-bio

Labour market study underscores gaps exposed by COVID-19 pandemic


Ottawa, December 6, 2021  The bio-economy, a burgeoning sector of the Canadian Prairies economy, is poised to create jobs, but the current pipeline for those positions is largely empty.

This was the conclusion an unprecedented labour market study by BioTalent Canada released this fall. Today, the organization released eight reports that unpack the current landscape, trends, challenges, and opportunities facing each region.

The report on the Prairies – including Manitoba and Saskatchewan – concludes the region is likely to require another 3,400 bio-economy workers by 2029. However, current estimates indicate there will not be enough workers to meet labour needs. The Prairies will be challenged to fill positions due a highly competitive labour market and difficulty finding candidates with the right skills.

The reports note that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant gaps in the Canadian bio-economy, notably in bio-manufacturing and processing capacity, which saw Canada initially unable to produce sufficient protective equipment and having no domestic capacity to develop and manufacture vaccines. Commitments have been made to build facilities to remedy this, but those facilities will require skilled people to operate them – a supply of talent that does not currently exist.

Estimates suggest the Prairies will need an additional 800 bio-manufacturing workers by 2029, with the agri-bio sector requiring the largest share (41%), followed by bio-health and bio-industrial, each accounting for 20-25% of the need.  The report also predicts only 25% of those available positions will be fillable by predicted supply during this period.

“To fill the shortages, the bio-economy will need to develop new strategies,” says BioTalent President and CEO Rob Henderson. “In the Prairies, this could include broadening the talent pool and focusing on attracting recent immigrants, Indigenous workers, and workers with disabilities. And even though the Prairies has Canada’s highest percentage of women working in its bio-economy, there’s an opportunity to promote the industry as a viable career path among them as well.”

Other notable findings in the Prairies regional analysis:

  • The bio-economy in the Prairies comprises some 700 organizations – mainly small and medium-sized businesses – collectively employing about 9,800 people in 2019 and accounting for 9% of the Canadian bio-economy.
  • Almost half (49%) of the bio-economy in the Prairies is made up of primarily bio-health companies, with another third (37%) comprised of agri-bio companies.
  • While the overall economy in the Prairies declined because of COVID-19, employment in the regional bio-economy expanded by almost 16% in 2020.
  • In the short term, annual employment growth in the bio-economy is expected to be minimal and will fall below zero in 2025. For the rest of the decade, growth is forecast to rebound and remain stable at around 1.4% per year.
  • On average, women make up a larger proportion of the Prairie bio-economy workforce (43%) than the rest of the country (34%).
  • Half of Prairie bio-economy employers (50%) recruit graduates from agriculture, agriculture operations, and related sciences programs, and almost as many (46%) recruit from biological and biomedical science programs.

 For additional information and to read the full reports, visit:

Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.


About BioTalent Canada

BioTalent Canada supports the people behind life-changing science. Trusted as the go-to source for labour market intelligence, BioTalent Canada guides bio-economy stakeholders with evidence-based data and industry-driven standards. BioTalent Canada is focused on igniting the industry’s brainpower bridging the gap between job-ready talent and employers and ensuring the long-term agility, resiliency, and sustainability of one of Canada’s most vital sectors. Recently named one of the 50 Best Workplaces in Canada with 10-50 employees and certified as a Great Place to Work® for 2021, BioTalent Canada practices the same industry standards it recommends to its stakeholders. These distinctions were awarded to BioTalent Canada following a thorough and independent survey analysis conducted by Great Place to Work®.

For more information, please visit


Media Inquiries

Siobhan Williams
Director, Marketing and Communications
BioTalent Canada
613-235-1402 ext. 229
[email protected]

Rob Henderson is available for comment.