Good afternoon, committee. Thank you for allowing me and my company the opportunity to speak about such an important topic.
I feel that, regarding the topic, our company is well qualified to speak on the matter, specifically in terms of our experiences with labour and the shortfalls and challenges we've experienced with labour. Our company operates in rural coastal Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I was looking at recent statistics, and in our area, population changes between the years 2010 and 2014 were -4.7% to -9.9% in Cape Breton, Victoria, and Guysborough counties, where we operate.
Speaking personally on the matter, I've seen the shrinking of our population base first-hand. I am 37 years old. I'm a native Cape Bretoner, born and raised, and I feel fortunate to have been able to stay in my hometown with a good career. Many of my friends have moved on to western Canada, to northern Alberta or B.C., or to Ontario. It's very much the norm for most of my friends. The people I went to high school with or graduated with have mostly all moved on, with some exceptions, of course.
Our company, Louisbourg Seafoods, is involved in the harvest, the off-load, the processing, and the sales and marketing of seafood products. This ranges from such species as snow crab, lobster, cold-water shrimp, and groundfish like cod, haddock, halibut, and redfish. It also includes new fisheries, such as sea cucumber, whelk, and hagfish. It ranges from seaweed harvesting to aquaculture as well—mussels, kelp, oysters, and products like that. We're located in small coastal towns like Louisbourg, Glace Bay, North Sydney, and Canso.
In all, our company employs over 500 people in these places in a variety of jobs, from processing to sales to accounting and office administration. The list goes on. When we're at 500 people, we're at our peak. We are a seasonal industry. We can't escape that, even though we try to do our best to avoid the seasonality. The amount of 500 jobs is significant anywhere, but in our areas, in our communities, it's even more so. Given the small populations of the communities we live in, it's important.
To many, the fishing industry is seen as old-fashioned and as somewhat of a relic of the past. If truth be told, in some ways there are instances of this, but in many ways, and I'm fortunate to be able to say this, the fishery is unique. It's exciting. It's innovative. For me it represents such a tremendous opportunity for our region and our communities. The potential to grow the value of our industry is tremendous. To make the most out of our extremely valuable resources is our company's goal, and it should be the goal of the entire industry.
In order to do this, it all requires people. It really comes down to the people who make this happen, and this is where we run into a very big problem. For our business, we need access to reliable and productive labour. The average age in our processing plants is 58. We try to recruit younger people into our operations. We are successful in some cases, but in most cases we're not always successful.
In terms of our philosophy for our workforce and our labour force, our company is very community-minded. We view the fishery as something that should benefit the community and not just the companies that operate in the community. Good local jobs should be a part of the fishery for the community. Otherwise, we ask ourselves, why are we doing it? This really ties into the tradition, I believe, of our fisheries. The reasoning behind this is that in small, rural coastal communities, you have nothing else. That's why they were founded. That's why they exist. It's because of the fisheries. The importance of that can't be lost.
We recognized probably a decade ago the challenge that we were going to have in labour. We decided that, for us, our company would implement a structure that exists somewhat loosely in the following way. First, 33% of our workforce consists of our core workers, our local, traditional workers who since 1984 have always worked for us. They come back year after year, and they're our solid workforce.
We have what we'll call transient workers, or the people that come and go, essentially. This would be recruiting of young people, like high school students, who will work in the summer at the peak periods. These are short-term workers with a relatively high turnover. There's also a strategy to employ 33% of either temporary foreign workers or immigration-based labour. We've looked closely at that and have had our share of challenges. At the same time, our company embraces automation when the time is appropriate and we will make some serious decisions about investing in automation when the time is right.
We've looked at the labour situation and we recognize that we, as a company, can make changes to improve conditions and retain our workers. This doesn't apply to just the current workforce and current residents of our communities but also new immigrants.
Number one, as I had mentioned, is seasonality. Nobody wants to work for several weeks or several months and then be on employment insurance, so we've taken an approach to reduce the seasonality of our workforce. We've embraced new fisheries, such as sea cucumbers and whelk, to add shoulder seasons to our core processing season, so that people can have a full-time job.
Second is training and professionalization, investing in our workforce so that they take pride in their work and view their jobs more as a skilled tradesperson, rather than just as a fish plant worker.