The agriculture industry urgently needs to change its image to avoid “catastrophic” labor shortages, a new report warns.
The poor image of agriculture as a career – associated with low wages, long hours, poor work-life balance, poor conditions, lack of progression, heavy physical labor and unskilled labor – must be reformed, experts said.
The report, commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Farmers, suggests that potential newcomers for permanent jobs in the industry could include career changers, military service leavers, ex-offenders and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, fluctuations in the value of the pound and new immigration laws are likely to exacerbate labor shortages in the years to come, he warns.
Dr Caroline Nye of the University of Exeter, one of the authors of the report, said the industry needs to improve its self-promotion and open up opportunities for enthusiastic people who may need additional training or time to develop new skills.
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“Agriculture is an ‘invisible career’ for anyone who is not of agricultural background, and that must change,” she said.
“Potential career opportunities in agriculture go far beyond just picking fruit and often involve working with complex technology and machinery, with some farm managers earning more than £ 90,000 a year.
“Farms will need to become more competitive, flexible and attractive workplaces in order to stimulate recruitment. This applies to both domestic workers and migrant workers. “
While the report highlights future workforce concerns, there is already a shortage of farm workers in East Anglia.
Helen Reeve, who runs the herd of 60 Waveney Dexter oxen in Alburgh, near Harleston, is also a Workplace Learning Assessor and Agricultural Apprenticeship Lecturer at Easton College.
She said: “There is always a demand from people – this week alone I have had three or four farmers contacting me looking for employees on their farm, and I expect to hear from a few other farmers. desperate for harvest staff in the next few weeks, so there is already a shortage of people coming in, and that’s a concern.
“As an industry, we need to educate young people who drop out of school and people who are considering career choices. There’s this preconception of long hours and covering yourself with nasty things, but there are some really good careers.
“That’s the hundred million dollar question: how do you get people to change careers to get into farming?
“Some people have a pretty picturesque, rose-tinted image of what’s going on, but there’s a lot more than milking a few cows or having sheep in a field.
“A lot of my apprentices don’t come from farming families, so that’s not something that should hold you back.”