Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2018)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 6, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Agriculture Financial Services Corporation / AFSC was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2018) and Alberta's Top Employers (2018):
- New employees at AFSC start with 3 weeks of paid vacation and receive an upfront credit of 5 additional vacation days in their first year of employment, with vacation increasing by 1 day after 2 years on-the-job and moving to a maximum of 6 weeks of paid vacation for long-serving employees
- AFSC provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers or fathers (including adoptive parents), to 95% of salary ranging from 12 to 17 weeks -- additionally, the organization offers a generous subsidy for IVF when needed (up to $10,000)
- AFSC considers previous work experience when setting vacation entitlements for experienced candidates and actively seeks experienced adjusters for their knowledge (with the average age for adjusters being 52 years) -- the organization also helps employees prepare for life after work with tailored retirement planning courses, phased-in retirement work options and generous contributions to a defined benefit pension
Summer student opportunities yield promising careers at AFSC
Working a second shift is more often associated with necessity than with passion. But at Alberta's Agriculture Financial Services Corporation, the second shift that many employees happily choose to work is on the family farm.
"I think that's why we have a lot of success with agriculture producers in Alberta that use our services," says Karla Kochan, Senior Manager, Human Resources and Communications, at the Crown corporation's Lacombehead office in central Alberta. "We have a really strong complement of staff that know what it's like to farm and produce."
For example, when early snow hit Alberta in the fall of 2016 and brought the fall harvest to an abrupt standstill in parts of the province, it was devastating for many producers. In some cases, AFSC staff members were coping with the same challenges. "There's a huge understanding there because these employees can relate as they may be going through the exact same issue," Kochan explains.
With staff in more than 40 branch offices handling lending, insurance and client service, AFSC has a presence throughout Alberta. As it brings new employees on board, the corporation is looking for people who will be a part of the province's agricultural communities.
Rob Saunders did his first stint at AFSC as part of the summer student program, which hires more than 25 students from May to the end of August each year. He spent the summer before his final year in the commerce program at the University of Alberta as part of the On Farm Inspections team doing insurance adjusting while paired up with an AFSC senior employee. "It was awesome," he says of the many miles they drove together assessing crop damage and the lessons he learned.
Saunders was struck by how farmers growing the same crop can operate so differently. "I think as long as you're willing to learn, you can pick up the job pretty easily," he says, adding that inspectors are taking advantage of efficiency-increasing technology to make their job easier. A new app that detects hail damage to crops is just one of the things that can really help, he adds.
After graduation, Saunders, who comes from a family that runs an 800-acre cattle and horse farm, signed on full-time with AFSC as a Lending Specialist based in Lamont, about an hour northeast of Edmonton. He lives in nearby Fort Saskatchewan and most weekends he returns to the family farm.
In contrast to Saunders, Shealyn Ronnie, another summer student who also enjoyed her work at AFSC so much she came back for a full-time job, describes herself as a townie from a rural community. She worked in the corporation's finance and insurance divisions before landing permanently in marketing, which she calls her "wheelhouse."
"What I really like is the diversity of the people here," Ronnie says, describing the Lacombe head office. "There are over 300 people in this location and something new is going on every day." She works with different groups and divisions within the organization, assisting with projects and, in the process, gaining more knowledge about the agriculture industry.
"I get to be close to my family but still be in business and use my degree and experience," she says.
Saunders, too, is happy to be taking advantage of his degree in a corporation that offers him plenty of opportunities to learn and grow in the agricultural world. "I'm having a blast," he says.