21 April 2000

Employment agency to

tap surplus farm labour

By Robert Davies

A NEW company is offering farming families in central Wales the chance to earn extra off-farm income.

Labour Direct, which is a subsidiary of the non-profit making Mid Wales Machinery Ring, can even arrange Welsh Dev-elopment Agency grants to cover 75% of the cost of training in skills that are in demand in particular areas. The aim is to match surplus labour available on farms at certain times of the year with local job opportunities.

Organisers plan to arrange home working contracts for jobs like machine knitting, packing and garment inspection, but the biggest demand is expected to be for skills like lorry driving, welding, woodland maintenance, factory work and even cooking.

Field officer Jill Lloyd is responsible for identifying users of part-time and temporary staff and checking the skills required. She told a farm consultants seminar that the rings database was being used to find members who had registered an interest in off-farm work.

"Labour Direct will put these in touch with people who have part-time jobs to offer," said Mrs Lloyd. "If there is nobody suitable available on farms in the area we can arrange training through Mid Wales Tec."

Just as the ring allowed farmers to make more economic use of under-utilised equipment, Labour Direct linked farmers, their wives, sons and daughters and workers, who were needed at peak times but were under employed at others, with people looking for non-permanent staff.

Gill Wood, manager of Mid Wales Machinery Ring, said the response of the farming community and outside employers to the launch of Direct Labour had been very positive. Its remit fitted in well with the Prime Ministers call for hard pressed farmers to generate off-farm income to keep farmers and their families on the land.

"We now have to let everyone in the industry know that this service is available," said Mrs Wood. &#42