The number of jobs in the wider agricultural market, particularly senior roles, is back on the rise but recruiters says the challenge now is finding people to fill them.
“The general trends are certainly positive,” said Andrew Fitzmaurice, recruitment director at agricultural recruitment company MorePeople.
“Consumer and business confidence is good for 2014, and I think we will see that reflected in agricultural recruitment.”
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The economic downturn had slowed agricultural recruitment over the past few years, with availability of senior positions in farming businesses in particular being hit, Mr Fitzmaurice said.
But companies are coming out of the difficult time and thinking more strategically about their futures.
“Lots of companies were chopping out some of the more senior roles for cost-saving purposes during the recession,” he said.
“A company with a commercial director and a commercial managing director may well have done away with one of the roles.
“But businesses that have weathered the past couple of years are now looking at their long-term structures and are having conversations about getting themselves secure for the future.”
For Mr Fitzmaurice, now is the perfect time for companies to start looking to new entrants to the industry to help fill these long-term positions, but it requires businesses to change their thinking about the kinds of people they employ.
“Lots of companies are looking internally and realising there is a gap in the next generation and they don’t necessarily have the right people coming through,” he said.
“By deciding not to hire graduates over the past few years to save money during the downturn, many companies are realising they don’t have people with the right experience to fill job gaps.
“We have started the year well with people committing to make decisions about employing people, but we are hitting a stumbling block because they want people who can hit the ground running.
“They are not interested in transferrable skills, they have a very clear and specific need but it can be a challenge finding those people because there is not a surplus around.”
“I have noticed a lot more graduates recognising what a good career grain trading can be, and for the right individual there is lot of money in it.”
Grace Nugent, recruitment consultant at De Lacy Executive
To overcome the problem, he says businesses need to be willing to look outside agriculture to find the candidates.
“We have an ageing workforce and we are trying to grow from the same pool of candidates. At some point people have to be willing to be flexible.”
Grace Nugent, recruitment consultant at De Lacy Executive, agreed that agricultural businesses need to think more openly about recruitment.
“We have a lot of graduates who want training in agronomy roles, but we get companies asking for candidates who are already FACTS and BASIS-trained,” she said. “We would like to see more trainee roles to give graduates a chance, particularly to get into the commercial side of farming.”
Jobseekers also need to be willing to consider alternative career opportunities which are being developed in the sector, she added.
“There are lots of jobs in sales, which can be basic but progress into more technical roles. Lots of people don’t consider sales because they don’t understand how it works in agriculture, but they can be very technical, hands-on roles.”
An increase in trials work and grain buying are also becoming more apparent too, she added.
“I have noticed a lot more graduates recognising what a good career grain trading can be, and for the right individual there is lot of money in it.
“There are so many roles opening up which often aren’t considered by people looking for jobs – customer relations and marketing are becoming big areas for companies to focus on.
“We are also seeing more agricultural roles opening up in Europe, and I think we will see more and more coming from that area.”
These changing roles in agricultural businesses will see employees needing different and more technical skills from traditional farm business workers, Mr Fitzmaurice said.
“Some of the more corporate roles even in traditional family, land-based businesses are getting more and more technical because of their links with commercial businesses.
“For example, a potato grower who supplies Aunt Bessie’s will have to get used to dealing with a blue-chip business and find ways to dovetail themselves into it.
“It requires a whole new level of sophistication in agricultural businesses that we haven’t seen before,” he adds. “This is why we are seeing so much up-skilling in so many businesses.
“There’s a lot of change happening, but if job-seekers and employers are willing think more creatively about roles, then there’s potential out there for everyone.”