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Challenges and Opportunities: Recruiting Agriculture Candidates in 2022

The Lucas Groups specialist recruitment consultants have provided insight into recruiting agriculture candidates in 2022. We’ve highlighted the trends and strategies that will shape successful workforces as we enter another exciting – and likely challenging – year of producing food and fibre for a global market.

While Australian agriculture enjoys strong demand, yield and prices, the focus is now on 2022 and the impact industry buoyancy will have on recruiting and retaining staff across the supply chain.

Growing and Emerging Agriculture Sectors

The role of data in streamlining agricultural operations has led to a surge in the value of precision agriculture on-farm, with specialist PA roles becoming a more common feature in the landscape. Supported by initiatives like government funding, the market will continue to see increased demand for PA specialists – so long as the education sector continues to attract and produce skilled graduates.

The increased productivity, profitability and career options that precision agricultural technologies bring to our industry ensure continued growth through innovation,” said The Lucas Group’s Managing Director Geoff Lucas.

“To continue to ensure the maintained growth of this industry area, the inclusion of agriculture in STEM should be highlighted, labelling the acronym STEAM.” 

Another emerging trend will be increased vacancies for candidates with speciality skills in carbon neutrality and emissions reductions. With agriculture seen as a golden ticket for Australia’s emissions reduction strategy, Mr Lucas said that an increasing number of employers are seeking in-house staff with relevant knowledge.

“Positions helping our industry to achieve carbon neutrality are on the increase. As the industry continues to move towards emissions reductions, candidates in this specialty area will continue to be in high demand.”

Across the 2019-2020 financial year, Australia’s horticulture industry grew produce values at more than $15 billion, employing more than 60,000 workers. Despite the ongoing worker shortage, demand and production remain strong, presenting opportunities throughout the sector.

“The continued strength and growth of the horticultural supply chain represents outstanding opportunities for agricultural workers, from entry-level to senior management,” said Brodie McHugh, Recruitment Resourcer for The Lucas Group.

Agricultural Workforce Challenges

Consistent with previous trends, supply chain disruptions and worker shortages will continue to be the most dominant challenges for the industry, according to Senior Consultant, Tom Lucas.

“Supply chain disruptions are bound to continue, but if we’ve seen anything over the last few years it’s that agriculture is as resilient as ever. We’ve managed to continue to thrive through global restriction and diplomatic issues, and I’m sure we will continue to grow.”

“Even with some disruptions, we will continue to build towards the $100 billion by 2030 target in 2022.”

Buoyant trading conditions in 2021 saw more than 300,000 new workers employed in the industry, putting further strain on worker shortages already facing many sectors. While relaxed border controls and the implementation of the new agriculture visa may help, Geoff Lucas says that more needs to be done at an industry level.

“Unless the agriculture and horticulture industries take responsibility for the people who are in the industry, it may never be an attractive career. The industry needs to invest in education and skills development, possibly covering the cost of education of the next generation, making ag industries more attractive for school leavers,” he said.

Recruiting Agriculture Candidates

With a short supply of skilled and qualified candidates, employers must be prepared to search widely for candidates and provide flexibility in salary packaging and working arrangements.

“In a candidate-short market, employers will need to actively search for the right candidates. They are not likely to just apply. It’s important to stay up to date with what potential employees expect in terms of remuneration and workplace flexibility,” said Geoff Lucas.

“While the rate of salary increase in agriculture is only two per cent, employers should take the opportunity to communicate the total package involved. Investment opportunities, share-farming arrangements, and seasonal bonuses can help to attract and retain skilled workers,” he added.

Presenting the best first impression with a job advert is an essential part of the process, but requires a strategic approach to maximise candidate interest.

“A professional job advert that focuses on enticing applications, rather than technical competencies, can help attract a diverse range of potential workers. Keeping an open mind when going through the recruitment process is crucial in bringing new talent and diversity to our industry.”

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