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The Challenges in Hiring for the Fresh Produce Industry

7 months ago by

Luan Harrison, Associate Director, Technical. Tom Edmundson-Matthews, Executive Consultant, Commercial & Alex Marshall, Associate Director, Technical discuss recruiting within the food industry.

The fresh produce sector encounters distinctive difficulties in recruiting and retaining skilled workers. A major obstacle is the scarcity of experienced individuals and the lack of young talent entering the field. Complicating matters, hiring managers are hesitant to consider people with transferable skills, further narrowing the pool of potential candidates.

​Fresh produce businesses grapple with an image challenge, often being misunderstood as solely associated with factory or packhouse work. This misconception hampers the recruitment of new talent, and the root cause lies in a lack of awareness regarding the diverse career paths within the sector. It is imperative to implement initiatives aimed at educating and inspiring young individuals, encouraging them to explore opportunities in the fresh produce industry. These efforts are essential for sustaining the vibrancy of the industry in the long run.

​For graduates aspiring to enter this field, the situation is nuanced. Those graduating from universities like Harper Adams or Cirencester, with a focus on food, agriculture, and horticulture, find it relatively easy to secure placements. However, the industry struggles to attract graduates who may view it as less appealing, especially if they lack transportation, considering the sector's reliance on unconventional working hours and remote locations.

​The surge in hybrid and flexible working models has revolutionised the landscape, not only in fresh produce but across various industries. The ability to work remotely has become a crucial consideration for potential candidates, particularly in technical and commercial roles. Nonetheless, some roles continue to resist this shift, insisting on the necessity of physical presence.

​The importance of location in hiring has changed significantly. While being close to the workplace is still attractive, the rise of flexible working has shifted the landscape. Now, areas with more skilled individuals and strong transportation links are gaining attention, making the recruitment process smoother.

​In attracting candidates for graduate and middle management roles, several factors play a role. Opportunities for career advancement, company culture, reputation, salary, and benefits, including hybrid working options, heavily influence decision-making.

​Moving forward, a fundamental change is needed in how recruitment operates within the fresh produce industry. Businesses might find it beneficial to work closely with recruitment partners to strengthen their HR capabilities. Embracing a broad perspective on transferable skills and challenging the belief that the industry lacks attractiveness are essential measures. Offering appealing benefits, especially in terms of holiday allowances, is crucial for remaining competitive compared to other sectors.

​Even though the industry hasn't experienced ground-breaking shifts in recruitment strategies, the ongoing success of recruitment fairs, community outreach, and a well-organized hiring process remains essential.

​In summary, overcoming these challenges requires a united effort from both industry stakeholders and educational institutions. By showcasing the varied career possibilities within the fresh produce sector, we can chart a course toward a more vibrant and robust industry.