Pathways Forward: Mapping Job Transitions for Ontario Food Retail Workers

As the food retail sector continues to evolve, so does the reality of many grocery jobs. This report identifies specific options for workers looking to transition into other in-demand jobs in Ontario.
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Pathways Forward: Mapping Job Transitions for Ontario Food Retail Workers
Kimberly Bowman
Senior Projects Manager
Annalise Huynh
Policy Analyst + Designer
Diana Rivera
Senior Economist
Josephine Tsui
Collaborator
Linda Nguyen
Collaborator

About this report

Hundreds of thousands of people across Canada are employed in the food retail industry.  As the sector continues to evolve, the demand for particular skills changes — along with the reality of many grocery jobs. A significant proportion of grocery workers expect to transition out of their jobs, into other occupations and sectors. This report builds on the Brookfield Institute’s existing work exploring ways to connect skilled workers with in-demand opportunities, focusing on opportunities for job transitions for workers in Ontario’s grocery sector.

Our earlier grocery-focused report, Shake-up in Aisle 21: Disruption, change and opportunity in Ontario’s grocery sector, reported on trends in Ontario’s grocery sector.  Pathways Forward: Mapping Job Transitions for Ontario Food Retail Workers dives deeper into the nature of grocery work itself, exploring opportunities for people working as cashiers and as clerks, shelf stockers and order fillers in the food retail sector in Ontario.  Report findings come from original, primary research conducted with hundreds of workers, employers, training providers and professional associations in late 2020 and early 2021. The team used a human-centered design lens to explore opportunities for workers, while leveraging the power of data-driven adjacency models and labour market data.

This report first investigates the skills that food retail workers (specifically: cashiers and clerks, shelf stockers and order fillers) use in their daily work. Using an adjacency model first employed in 2019’s Lost and Found report, the project identifies similar occupations that appear suitable based on comparable  skills profiles. Later, the report identifies half a dozen promising opportunities for food retail workers — occupations with low barriers to entry, comparable or higher rates of pay and that labour market data and field research suggest are seeing stable or growing demand.

The report goes on to highlight careers in four major areas that might be suitable pathways: childcare practitioners, floor covering installers, food processing, and home support. Each of these careers are profiled for details such as entry requirements, nature of the work, and wage ranges. Each also provides frank advice from workers already in these industries. 

Read this report to help you:
  • Understand the hard and soft skills required of food retail workers and how these can be transferable to other occupations.
  • Identify and explore a range of  new career pathways that food retail workers might pursue — and how to navigate other sources of labour market information, job postings and employment supports in Ontario.
  • Gain insights into work-related preferences and expectations  of food retail workers from our survey.
  • Understand practical challenges and opportunities associated with occupations experiencing talent gaps in Ontario.
  • Better understand how policymakers and workforce developers could leverage data and human centered design to identify practical pathways for mid-career jobseekers.

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Key findings from this report:

  • Food retail work requires a varied set of skills — including physical work and increasing demands for providing high-quality customer service and customer experiences, often in a fast-paced environment. Dynamics including a push for “cross-training” mean food retail workers may be required to play multiple roles.  
  • There are many different options and pathways for food retail workers to explore, including options that do not require much or any additional training, may have a higher median rate of pay, and appear to be in high demand in Ontario. 
  • Many of the potential jobs and pathways identified have specific challenges — for example, they are demanding roles that are low-status. Some jobs also pose additional barriers to women, men or racialized people entering occupations where they are under-represented. Employers and workforce developers should recognize and consider these factors, which can pose barriers to successful job transitions.   
  • Employers in different sectors and hiring different occupations report the need for different training and job transition programs, with interest in pre-apprenticeships and support for on-the-job training.

 

 

Expert Advisors

Zahra Ebrahim
Zahra Ebrahim
Zahra Ebrahim, Co-Founder, Monumental
Jyldyz Djumalieva
Head, Open Jobs Data team, Creative Economy & Data Analytics, Nesta
Madeleine Gabriel
Head of Inclusive Innovation, Nesta
IIE Work Stream Fellow
Gillian Mason
Principal, Gillian Mason Consultancy
Tyrone James Chua
Tyrone James Chua
Grocery Worker Advisor
Todd Bennet
Grocery Worker Advisor
Khushbu Patel
Khushbu Patel
Grocery Worker Advisor
Ruth Darlington
Ruth Darlington
Grocery Worker Advisor

Our Sponsors and Partners

Community Partners

Kimberly Bowman
Senior Projects Manager
Annalise Huynh
Policy Analyst + Designer
Diana Rivera
Senior Economist
Josephine Tsui
Collaborator
Linda Nguyen
Collaborator

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