The Soil Association said the sector needed to inspire young people to reduce it’s reliance on migrant labour in the face of Brexit
Work needs to start now to inspire young people to take up horticulture careers and reduce agriculture’s reliance on migrant labour in the face of Brexit, according to a new report from the Soil Association.
The Digging into Horticulture: Encouraging the Next Generation of Producers report found UK millennials had a negative perception of horticultural careers seeing the work as low-paid and low-skilled.
But, while they were unlikely to consider fruit and vegetable picking roles, younger British workers may consider more senior or technical jobs if they met their priorities such as career progression and ethical practices.
One research participant, Rachel aged 26, said they wanted their job to make them ‘feel fulfilled’ and have a meaningful job ‘in line with my principles’.
“I want to make a difference to other people and feel like I’m working towards change.”
Honor Eldridge, SA policy officer and author of the report said younger generations held the answer to the risks of a post-Brexit labour shortage.
“A new vision of horticulture is needed to show how it delivers millennial values like autonomy, social responsibility and community engagement.
“By enhancing entry points and perceptions of the sector and continuously improving working conditions, we can show young people how exciting and rewarding a career in horticulture can be.”
However, she warned a shift in attitudes would not happen overnight and robotics were also unlikely to fill the gap in the short-term so the government needed to commit to maintaining access to migrant labour post-Brexit.
She also said news reports of the government saying unemployed Brits could fill seasonal roles was an ‘unrealistic, temporary and short-term solution’.
“UK workers are unlikely to consider these jobs and consequently access to migrant workers needs to be maintained to meet the increasing labour shortage.”
She added a ‘more future-focused’ vision of horticulture was needed, to connect the priorities of young people and show British workers ‘how rewarding these jobs can be’.