MorePeople | Is produce growing facing a serious skills shortage?

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Is produce growing facing a serious skills shortage?

Skills shortages are nothing new for fruit and vegetable growing businesses in the UK, but a new report suggests that a serious labour crisis could be just around the corner.

According to the Association of Labour Providers (ALP), 75 per cent of fruit and veg growers believe they will be short of low-skilled labour this season.

Meanwhile, 49 per cent of seasonal labour suppliers are concerned they won't be able to provide sufficient manpower to farms.

Nearly two-thirds of agriculture and horticulture businesses are currently finding it hard to source low and unskilled roles, while one in eight say the problem has now reached crisis point.

The ALP is by no means the first to warn that the industry could be on the verge of a serious workforce shortage.

Indeed, a recent report from the Food and Drink Federation stated that Brexit might be set to have a big impact on the availability of labour in the coming years.

Some 31 per cent of firms polled said they have seen EU nationals leaving in the wake of the referendum two years ago. Meanwhile, 47 per cent stated that EU nationals are considering moving away.

The knock-on effect of this could be very serious, as 36 per cent of respondents said their firm could become unviable if they did not have access to EU workers.

Meanwhile, 17 per cent said they could be forced to relocate overseas if they couldn't hire EU nationals.

Ian Wright, director-general of the Food and Drink Federation, said it is therefore "only a matter of time before the uncertainty reported by businesses results in an irreversible exit of EU workers from these shores".

"Without our dedicated and valued workforce, we would be unable to feed the nation," he commented.

What can employers do to tackle this problem?

The knock-on effects of labour shortages are wide-ranging, as they can force businesses to scale down and even threaten their viability.

Alternatively, a lack of workers can prompt some to look at relocating to a new site, as well as push up a firm's wider operating costs.

In short, this is not an issue that can be ignored, with employers simply hoping that it will all sort itself out in the long run.

Highlight career opportunities

Filling low-skilled roles isn't always the easiest task, as people might believe they are just physical labour jobs that do nothing to boost their wider career prospects.

Fruit and veg growing businesses might therefore benefit from promoting the wide range of positions that are on offer throughout the industry, both on the farm and behind the scenes.

By simply raising awareness of the variety of opportunities that are available throughout the industry, a low-skilled, entry-level role could suddenly become much more attractive to prospective applicants.

After all, it positions these roles as valuable first steps into a diverse and economically vital sector. 

Promote company culture

Today's job applicants are drawn to a position by much more than the salary that is on offer or how profitable a company may be.

While these remain undeniably important, issues such as a business's values and ethos are also having a big influence on candidates' decisions.

After all, they want to work for a company that operates in line with their own world views and is interested in more than just making a profit.

Businesses that are struggling to attract labour could therefore find it worthwhile highlighting the kind of culture they seek to create and the values that they adhere to day after day.

This can all play a big part in cementing a firm's reputation as a good employer and attracting interest in vacancies.

Use your social media platforms to actively get this across and take part in online debates to get key messages through to a wider audience. At the same time, work with a specialist recruiter with experience in hiring for the positions that you're aiming to fill.

If you're interested in pursuing a career in the Fresh Food, Fresh Produce, Horticulture, Agriculture and Garden & Leisure sectors but could do with a little advice, feel free to email us on or call 01780 480530 and have a chat about your CV and career with one of our sector specialists.