Farming's skill shortage

By Carmen Hall

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The agriculture sector is looking at a collaborative approach to tackle the shortage of skilled workers.

The Federated Farmers/Rabobank 2013 Farm Employee Remuneration Survey shows pay levels for most pastoral farm positions continued to increase. Now the average farm worker is earning $5500 more than the average annual wage and salary.

However, despite relatively high unemployment nationally, farmers were still finding it difficult to recruit skilled and motivated staff.

Bay of Plenty dairy farmer Ian Bell has a herd manager/assistant position advertised on the Fonterra Fencepost website. It is an 11 days on, three days off job that carries a $46,000 to $53,000 salary depending on experience.

He has fielded about 15 replies - not a lot according to him - six came from offshore including Argentina and the Philippines. A man from England, who is doing a bachelor in agriculture science and has been in New Zealand before, "could be worth chasing".

Unfortunately, farming was being "dumbed down" as a career when in reality those who progressed through the ranks were responsible for running multi-million dollar businesses.

He also questioned the enthusiasm and work ethic of New Zealanders.

"A lot of people aren't passionate any more. The least work they can do in a day the happier they are. I just want employees who have practical skills and intelligence."

Young Farmers Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional chairman Jason Te Brake said farming was often perceived as a labour-intensive job where you milk cows and move stock, without highlighting how smart you have to be. There was also a definite shortage of young people coming into the industry.

"I don't know if people actually understand the skills you need to run these businesses and the huge opportunities that exist for people to get in and make a really good living."

Dairy farm manager Glen Sparrow is a success story. The 35-year-old husband and father of two returned to the industry four years ago after a 10-year break and up-skilled through AgITO, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Dairy NZ.

- Hamilton News

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