As the looming spectre of Brexit rears its ugly head, fears over staff shortages in the agriculture sector are stirring talk of farms closing down. And as the dust settles on another hugely successful Great Yorkshire Show, one of the nation's premier showpiece agricultural events, many farmers have returned to struggles with filling demanding jobs that are known for extremely long hours. For many, the day-to-day job is becoming insurmountable as they are unable to source workers to help with the running of daily tasks. With so many jobs in the agriculture sector currently filled by EU migrants, there is already a significant growth in opportunities to start a glowing career as an agriculture worker.
The woes of the British farmer
There have been reports of a farmer in County Durham, by the name of Richard Hewitson, who advertised a vacancy on his farm and was blown away when it failed to receive a single applicant. Meanwhile, a farmer based near Darlington has reported that he has not been able to fill the slot of a former self-employed part-time worker who retired two years ago!
The biggest problem the farming industry is facing is that there appears to be a desperate shortage of people willing to work in the sector. There is a shortage of potential candidates who have the necessary skills with beasts, such as rearing suckler cows, as well as self-motivation and a work ethic of hard graft. A perception that farm work is long, exhausting hours for little return is proving to be a massive barrier to attracting new talent, regardless of how accurate that perception actually is.
Other skills that are needed include a driving licence to pilot a tractor working arable crops, with a willingness to work long hours in all weathers. There will be lots of hard physical work, and workers will inevitably get dirty in the process, which may put many people off. Working on a farm is challenging, but it is satisfying and allows you to work in the outdoors.
Mounting cries for help
The National Farmers Union (NFU) emphasises that the cries for help in the agriculture sector are getting louder and more intense. And it's a reality that some farms may face the worst case scenario of having to close. Their message is that agriculture can be a lifelong career, and can pay very well if you work hard and show good skill at the job. A background in farming isn't a necessity, as you can learn on the job.
For example, there is an anecdotal story of an NFU member hiring a plumber to fill a short-term role on his farm, and it turned out to be "the best thing he ever did". The plumber in question had only planned to help out for a few weeks, but ended up choosing to remain permanently and has fallen in love with the job. And some of the skills he possessed from his life as a plumber were transferable, making him a valuable asset on the farm.
A regional spokesperson with the NFU, Rachael Gillbanks, has stated that the doubts over continuing access to non-British workers after Brexit amount to a "serious issue" as a number of farming operations, particularly if their focus is on the horticultural side, are typically reliant on migrant workers. She spoke of some dairy farms she had visited that largely used Polish herdsmen, and that if those farms were to lose their EU migrant workers they could find themselves with up to 50% of their workforce gone with little hope of replacing them. But it doesn't have to be so difficult to find new workers from the British talent pool; it just takes the right medium to connect with potential talent.
The work being done
According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the NFU has worked with the Association of Labour Providers to develop a ten-point plan to advise farmers on how to improve their recruitment and retention of workers. A spokesperson said it revolves around bringing in skilled workers and making the job attractive to young talent who could develop a passion for an agricultural career. This is vital for the future of UK agriculture, which we all hope can flourish in the post-Brexit era.
The industry is working hard to raise awareness of the career opportunities that exist, including apprenticeships, to get the attention of young people who could represent the future of the agriculture and food industry. As it stands, employers in the farming and agricultural sector are free to continue recruiting EU workers, but this is set to end in December 2020. It's unclear whether there will be any new assurances of access to EU workers, but many migrants are already opting to move on as the Brexit debate rages on.
DEFRA, therefore, is working closely with the Home Office to gain assurances that labour demands are met after the UK transitions out of the EU. Recruiters in the sector are quick to emphasise that the selection of job roles available is vast, including roles like farmer, crop collector or fruit picker or even more administrative roles in larger farms. There is an unflattering misconception about pay and entitlements, but even lower end roles are now meeting minimum wage requirements, bringing with it all the entitlements you would expect from any industry.
Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are the most effective source of this type of work. If farms have vacancies they are struggling to fill, they should contact agricultural recruitment agencies and talk with the experts who can advise and post jobs to people looking to work in this exciting and diverse industry. The workers are there, and Brexit could be an exciting opportunity for farmers if negotiations put the right protections and opportunities in place.
If you are having a hard time finding and recruiting the right talent for your agriculture jobs, get in touch with Agricultural Recruitment Specialists today and let us help you get on track.
If you are looking to progress your career, Agricultural Recruitment Specialists are the worldwide recruitment leader in agricultural, food, farming and rural recruitment and have a variety of executive and management positions available within agriculture, horticulture and the food and rural sectors throughout the UK and the rest of the world. To find out more about our agricultural job vacancies and discuss your future career, contact our team of agricultural recruitment professionals. You can visit our website here: www.agriRS.co.uk or call our team on: 01905 345 155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk
Alternatively, if you are a client looking to expand your team, whilst using a professional recruitment / headhunting solution, then please call us today on 01905 345155 or email us at: info@agriRS.co.uk