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Farming matters: Phil Garnham - 'Do not be afraid to recruit from outside the industry'

By the time you read this, we should all be emerging out of lockdown 2.0. Like all sequels, it was delayed in its release, had budget concerns and was not well received by the populace. Still, let’s be honest, it wasn’t as bad as Rocky V, was it?

Over the months, I have read lots of opinion pieces about the impact of Covid-19 across the country and over many industries. The social, economic and mental effect has been devastating. All of us have felt a change away from our regular lifestyles in varying degrees.

 

Working from home has gone from being an occasional treat of spending all day in joggers, to a mundane existence of that Christmas/New Year hinterland where you cannot tell if it’s Monday or Thursday and wondering if it’s okay to answer a zoom call while sat on the loo (it is if you blur out the background).

 

This is the new normal, as is including the phrase ‘in these strange times’ in an email.

 

Interviews are being carried out remotely and firms who were traditionally anti-working-from-home have now embraced it and given their employees more freedom as targets continue to be met and budgets surpassed.

 

It is because of this forced flexibility, to some degree, that our part of the UK trade industry has been left relatively unscathed, unlike the retail and other commercial sectors.

 

Clients in the livestock equipment industry, for example, have had a boon, as people have ‘flocked’ to buy their own hens or sheep and created their own menageries.

 

This positivity hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who have found themselves looking for work.


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Recently, we have received applications from those with great sales experience in the roofing sector or, in one case, someone who had been an estate agent for the last 12 years.

 

These are people who have enjoyed years of success, but have, without warning, found themselves looking for a change of career.

 

Courses

 

I have taken calls from people who have enrolled on BASIS with a view to working in agronomy or crop science, while others are beginning courses on livestock nutrition. They are embracing their situation to become involved in something they are genuinely interested in.

 

This is excellent news and, as Tom Clarke wrote in Farmers Guardian on November 16, ‘we need new blood, new ideas, open minds and energy’, and he is absolutely right.

 

By and large, we are a very secure industry, expanding more than contracting and firms are always looking for people from within the trade to join their organisations.

 

However, it is also a pig of an industry to break into. If you aren’t on a graduate scheme or from a farming-type background, there is an element of snobbery outsiders just won’t understand what the Hagberg falling number is or what the difference between rape and soya in a ration can do.

 

And add into the mix of the ‘sport’ that farmers enjoy of blooding a newbie into the trade and you have a perfect combination of turning away people who aspire to new things.

 

There is a risk that by overlooking these prospective entrants we are cutting our nose off to spite our face.

 

I regularly take calls from clients who naturally only want to consider someone with the relevant experience, rather than interview those who have made an assertive career change.

 

On the occasion that someone who is seen as a gamble has been employed, they have been a total breath of fresh air and the client has benefited from their wider experience.

 

I hope that with 2021, not only do we see the back of Covid-19, but also that we embrace the arrival of those who bring different skills and knowledge from another industry and that this will then become ‘the new normal’.

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