A shortage of skilled and unskilled labour has led to many Northern Territory Station owners calling 2018 the toughest year to find staff.
Both family-owned stations and corporate pastoral companies are facing unprecedented staff shortages from entry level roles through to more skilled positions such as livestock and station management positions. While candidates for entry level roles such as jillaroos, jackaroos, station hands, cooks and governesses are increasingly scarce, roles requiring more experience are even harder to recruit.
Crown Point Pastoral, the owner of four stations across the top end, has found the number of applicants for this year’s positions to be unusually low.
‘This year we probably haven’t got as many as we had hoped for, but we have filled our key roles,’ said Crown Point Pastoral’s Tanya Brooks
‘Throughout the year we’ll continue to hire more station hands and possibly bore runners as we go.
A resurgence in the mining sector is one potential reason for a shrinking candidate pool, and a smaller number of candidates has led to increased competition between employers. Many use social media to post job ads, but according to Ms Brooks the real-time effect can be a double-edged sword.
‘You have to be quick to snap up the good people,’ she said.
‘Social media is great for us as we are able to post our jobs, but at the same time, you’ve got to be aware that there are probably ten other [employers] looking at the same person.’
According to one industry expert, social media could be used to generate more interest in the red meat sector as an attractive career opportunity.
‘I think the beef industry in northern Australia is certainly a great career path, it is certainly very exciting,’ said Troy Setter, chief executive of Consolidated Pastoral Company (CPC).
‘If we want new people to continue to join [the industry], we’ve got a responsibility as participants in the red meat industry to promote the career opportunities and the excitement of working in agribusinesses and the beef industry.’
Gender Diversity Makes Business Sense
One major change in the labour force across Australia’s cattle stations is the rise of women in traditionally male dominated roles. This year, Yougawalla Pastoral Company has employed an equal number of male and female station staff across their three properties – Yougawalla, Bulka and Margaret River Stations in the Kimberleys.
For owner Jane Sale, the improvement in diversity in station workforces requires an adaptive people management strategy, but one which pays dividends across the business. A female presence in stock yards is considered to help keep herds calm which improves animal welfare outcomes and reduces the risk of occupational hazards.
‘We are who we are. There is no denying gender. We just work with it,’ she said.
As well as increasing numbers of women employed in agriculture, there’s a significant shift in the gender diversity of students enrolled in agriculture-related courses. In 2016, 53.4 per cent of agriculture-related students were female, according to data from Universities Australia.