Mariposa Dairy struggles to find young adults who want to work five days a week

By Roderick Benns

Mariposa Dairy, Armada Toolworks create new jobs with Provincial grants
Bruce Vandenberg, Mariposa Dairy.

Have jobs, will train. One of the Lindsay area’s largest private employers, Mariposa Dairy, is having trouble finding committed employees who want to work a full five days a week – at least in the 18-35 age bracket.

Bruce Vandenberg, owner of Mariposa Dairy along with his wife, Sharon, estimates that 30-40 per cent of the younger people they hire as general labourers don’t work out, mainly because of “misplaced priorities,” according to Vandenberg.

The business owner says his rule of thumb is “God first, family second, job third, and social life fourth.”

“If you get those mixed up there’s bound to be a problem – and I can tell you it’s not usually the first and the second priorities that they’re getting wrong,” Vandenberg says.

The business owner employs about 105 people in full time jobs and another 20-30 people in part-time roles. He uses a temp agency only when he needs people fast for a short period of time.

Vandenberg pays $2 above minimum wage and expects to do that even when the mandatory minimum wage hikes come into play on Jan. 1, 2018, and on Jan. 1 2019. (By Jan. 1, 2019, minimum wage in Ontario will be $15 an hour.)

“I have to be able to look an employee in the eye and be satisfied with the wage I’m paying them for the work they do,” says Vandenberg.

The dairy business owner says there is plenty of room to grow with the company but he often has trouble finding younger people who are committed to their work.

“We’ve had people with real potential, but they seem to have an issue with being able to work an entire five-day week,” Vandenberg tells The Lindsay Advocate.

This can be anything from “sleeping in” too often or “partying in Oshawa” or elsewhere and then somehow not having a ride back to make it to work, he says.

This seems to back up what Carol Timlin of Victoria County Career Services (VCCS) told The Lindsay Advocate earlier this month, in that many young people she deals with seem to be reticent to take on full-time employment.

“In the last couple of years I am hearing more and more about anxiety and anxiety disorders that young people seem to be facing,” she said.

“Many don’t seem to think they can handle full-time work,” Timlin added.

Vandenberg says it has nothing to do with specific skills needed that potential employees are missing, because Mariposa Dairy provides all the training.

If Fleming College can’t help with specific skills, then, The Advocate asked what the local school board could do to help. Vandenberg said, “Let them fail.”

“We have a whole generation raised without consequences,” he says, pointing out that even assignments don’t even necessarily come with due dates anymore, as long as they’re in by the end of the semester.

He says if students had real consequences – not just from schools, but by their parents, too – then maybe he wouldn’t be dealing with the challenges he now has.

While he says he has some “great younger people” who work for him, there are too many who can’t make their job a priority.

Basic Income

While Vandenberg is not a fan of a lot of social welfare programs, he thinks that basic income will be different, and therefore welcomes the pilot program in Lindsay. Since people on basic income will still be able to earn some money on top of their usual earnings, he expects it will work to incentivize people.

People in the pilot could receive up to $16,989 per year for a single person and up to $24,027 per year for a couple, less 50 per cent of any earned income. Those with a disability would receive up to an additional $500 per month.

The Company

Vandenberg is running a $30 million company, with 70 per cent of that money staying within 100 km of Lindsay. About 80 per cent stays within Ontario.

The dairy operation’s goat cheese products are shipped all across Canada and the USA, with plans for overseas’ sales in the works.

Mariposa Dairy struggles to find young adults who want to work five days a week
The original cheese vat from their goat farm, where it all started.

Mariposa Dairy got its beginning in the former Mariposa Township of Victoria County, the former City of Kawartha Lakes. The business moved from a farmstead plant to a factory operation in Lindsay. Since that time, from operating a simple goat farm to today, they have grown 70 times in 12 years.

The business sells exclusively to wholesalers so they can focus on manufacturing the products, rather than marketing. The ‘Celebrity’ goat cheese brand is their largest and most well-known product.

Vandenberg says they will be moving forward with automation as much as possible to stay competitive, but that this shouldn’t mean job losses because the company has great growth projections.

“If anything, we’ll be adding more jobs” from where we are now, he says.

The dairy operation owner says their secret to success is that he and his wife, Sharon, always said ‘yes’ to what seemed to be new and good opportunities they worked hard to create.

“We also worked with great people in the community.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.