A large proportion of young people in Britain are interested in working in the food and farming sector, but their career expectations may come as a surprise to many, with job security and work/life balance coming out as top requirements for job seekers.
These are the headline findings of an industry-backed Farmers Guardian survey of 16- to 35-year olds across the UK, which sheds light on what young people really want from their careers and what could attract new talent into the agricultural sector.
Of almost 1,800 respondents, 59 per cent said they were interested in a career in the agro industries.
However, the survey highlighted a lack of understanding around the opportunities the sector can offer, with only 5 per cent of respondents recognising there were engineering-or science-related careers available within the agricultural industry and only 7 per cent making the connection between agriculture and environmental careers.
Caroline Drummond, chief executive of Leaf, says: “There is a stigma with agriculture that does not reflect what the food, farming and rural industries deliver.
“The breadth of exciting skills agriculture offers is enormous, but the rhetoric stems around ‘everyone wants to be a farmer’, which confuses things. Farming is one slice of the cake of what agriculture offers in the career spectrum.”
Marcus Potter, Lantra, is in agreement: “Sadly, agriculture is branded as where you send the bottom 10 per cent. It is seen as low-skilled, low pay, unsociable hours, hard work and dirty.”
The survey clearly highlights if the industry is to attract the brightest minds to work in the sector there is a large public relations exercise to be done.
Simultaneously, the research showed the need for the industry to understand the changing requirements of today’s workforce, as respondents expressed the importance of flexible working hours and skills development.
Asked about the criteria on which they based their job selection, 98 per cent said they rated job security and a fun or pleasant working environment essential, very or quite important.
Achieving a good work/life balance came out at 94 per cent. All three criteria ranked well ahead of ‘high income’, which came seventh on the list, behind opportunity, helping others and location.
Drilling down further into salary expectations, just more than half (54 per cent) said they expected to earn £20,000-£25,000 or less by the age of 26.
They also indicated they wanted to see jobs in agriculture offer career development. The opportunity for career progression was cited as either an essential requirement or very important by 70 per cent of respondents to the survey.
However, the UK agricultural sector has been criticised in an AHDB paper from January 2018 for falling behind other countries on offering training programmes for staff.
It said: “British farmers and growers under-invest in new skills and training relative to their competitors.”
Following the research, which was conducted over summer, FG is proud to announce the launch of our new campaign, #ThisIsAgriculture.
Farmers Guardian has joined forces with 21 key industry stakeholders from across the farming sector to launch a new campaign, #ThisIsAgriculture, to promote careers in agriculture.
The challenge of recruiting is not a new one. Attracting new blood into the industry has always been an issue, with agriculture rarely sold as an exciting option into schools.
However, with the pace of technological change rapidly widening the skills gap and Brexit looming, the need to drive change within the industry has intensified greatly over recent years.
Building on the learning from the #ThisIsAgriculture survey, this initiative will work to educate the wider world about the wealth of opportunities available within the sector, as well as dispelling common myths about careers in agriculture.
We will also be collaborating with industry bodies and our industry partners to see where we can work together to shape the political agenda, drive educational reform and provide learning resources.
The campaign will also be sharing information with readers about how to attract – and retain – the right staff for farming businesses across the UK.