The following article is sponsored by Manitoba Pork

Since 2016, Neepawa’s population has jumped 23 percent, making it the third fastest growing town in Manitoba and the 13th fastest growing town in Canada. Much of this growth can be directly attributed to Manitoba’s hog sector, which is expanding thanks to new investments and substantial demand, around the world, for high-quality pork.

HyLife is the single biggest employer in the town of Neepawa, with over 1,650 employees. They are considered to be Canada’s leading producer of high-quality pork products. Hylife is committed to hiring local community members, and their recruitment teams hold creative pop-up events among many other initiatives trying to attract new workers. In order to fill in-demand skilled labour positions, HyLife successfully takes a “give opportunity to get opportunity” approach. The Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program has helped the company hire experienced workers from countries like the Philippines. Today, 70 percent of the plant’s employees identify as Filipino.

Lyane Cypres-Zepik came to Manitoba from the Philippines in 2009, and has advanced within HyLife to become the Director of Operations. She was part of the first 21 Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) that arrived and has witnessed firsthand, the town’s success journey. High-quality, skilled employees are critical to ensuring Manitoba’s hog sector continues to succeed. In 2020, over 50 percent of hog operations reported they were not able to fill the positions they needed. Both farmers and processors depend on TFW to keep their operations going.

“Within 13 years, Neepawa’s transformation is absolutely amazing! The plant expansion has brought along significant changes in the community and the businesses around. We have seen an increase in new ventures. Housing has been a great opportunity for several investors. Schools have been expanded, a new fire station was built, and now with a police station and a future hospital coming in, a lot more employment openings are created. It is surreal how this change has happened in the short amount of time,” shared Cypres-Zepik.

Lyane is now a key community leader and has helped spearhead events such as the Filipino Heritage Month.

“Our planning committee has created strong support and relationships with the town and local businesses. we were grateful for the strong support of the Filipino community. There were about 2,000 attendees at the Heritage Month celebrations. Everyone had the opportunity to connect, and many got 

to learn more about our rich culture. Events like this are especially important for our new HyLife hires, so that they can become more connected to the community and create a true sense of belonging.”

Manitoba’s hog sector is a key contributor to the provincial economy. Rural communities like Neepawa, Roblin, Killarney, Steinbach, and Notre Dame de Lourdes are being revitalized with new jobs and because of immigration, they can meet the demand of the growing hog sector. Schools, daycares, churches, and recreational centres are welcoming new members and communities are thriving.

Since 2017, over 40 new barns or barn expansions have been approved across the province, amounting to well over $200 million in private investment in rural Manitoba alone. In addition, more than $200 million is being invested in processing facilities across the province. All told, in the coming years, provincial pork producers will be investing about $2 billion, while creating local jobs and helping to stimulate healthy economic growth.

Welcoming Filipino immigrants like Lyane and their families and providing them access to skills training specific to the agri-food industry, is vital for the long-term success of both the hog sector and the provincial economy.

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