A new report from Deloitte suggested that school leavers may be the key to solving current agricultural workforce shortages.
The report claims that farming is on the verge of a workforce crisis. It highlighted attracting school leavers as one of six strategies to reverse the ongoing issues that worker shortages pose. In addition to current workforce supply constraints, the aging demographic of farmers and lack of diversity will likely exacerbate the workforce shortage over the coming decades; unless plans are put in place to reverse the trends.
The report says that the industry needs to frame farming careers in a more progressive light, pointing to the role of young people as the next wave of agricultural employees.
“Agricultural careers need to be promoted as successful and respectable career options, not just for students who have a family farming background. It has been shown that creating positive, hands-on experiences (such as training placements), not only attract young people into the industry but also create strong advocates for careers within agriculture.”
With funding from the Australian Government, a new pilot program aims to encourage young people to consider a role in the industry – promoting an agricultural gap year to school leavers.
Announced as part of National Agriculture Day on 19 November, AgCAREERSTART will place school leavers in agricultural jobs, supported by relevant training, pastoral care, networking opportunities, and relocation costs.
“An agricultural gap year opens up a whole universe of amazing careers in this thriving, important sector, from livestock and cropping to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud.
“An agricultural gap year is a crucial pathway to attract young Australians to agriculture, creating long-term, meaningful careers.”
“People are our most important asset in agriculture, and we’re relying on them as we stride towards our ambitions Ag2030 goals of a $100 billion industry,” he added.
AgCAREERSTART is open to anyone under the age of 24. Businesses and organisations looking to provide a placement through the scheme can register their interest via the website.
Agricultural Industry needs “an image makeover”
In addition to the development of career pathways for young people, Deloitte’s report noted the need for an image makeover for the agricultural sector as a crucial requirement in attracting new talent.
The report authors also claim that current stereotypes and outdated images of industry players continue to contribute to labour shortages.
“This branding of the industry does not reflect or promote the innovative, diverse, forward-thinking and positive lifestyle factors that a career in farming offers. In fact, it undervalues agriculture’s contribution to the Australian economy and dampens the attractiveness and enticement of skilled workers into the sector.”
Other strategies suggested include improving job advertisements to create better first impressions and the publication of total salary packages, highlighting the breadth of cash and non-cash components.
“Being innovative in the type of rewards offered, such as investment opportunities and share farming arrangements can also benefit the attraction and retention of skilled workers into the agricultural sector.”