Agriculture needs to improve its image to attract more workers and prevent disastrous labour shortages from contiuing, say experts.
Potential employees are being put off by the belief that farming is a sector with low pay, long hours, poor work-life balance, bad conditions, lack of progression, heavy physical labour and unskilled work.
Commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Farmers and the John Oldacre Foundation, researchers from Exeter University examined the perception of agriculture and employee labour issues for both seasonal jobs and more permanent roles.
“Farming is an ‘invisible career’ to anybody who isn’t from a farming background, and this needs to change,” said report co-author Caroline Nye.
“Potential career opportunities in agriculture go far beyond simply picking fruit, and often involve working with complex technology and machinery, with some farm managers earning over £90,000 a year.”
Farms must become more competitive, flexible and attractive places to work in order to drive recruitment, says the study.
The report suggests potential new entrants for permanent jobs in the industry might include people from a greater range of backgrounds. This includes people leaving the armed services, ex-offenders and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It says the Ministry of Defence should do more to spread awareness of agricultural opportunities – introducing more training schemes aimed at veterans from non-farming backgrounds.
Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, currency fluctuations and new immigration laws are likely to exacerbate labour shortfalls in the coming years, the report warns.